Answers to a Riddle Show Gender Bias And Cultural, Genaration Gap

A young boy and his father are involved in a car accident. The father dies at the scene. The boy is transported to the hospital, taken immediately into surgery… but the surgeon steps out of the operating room and says, “I can’t operate on this boy – he is my son!”. Who is the surgeon?

Please pause, decide on your answer, then read on.

A Memorable Look Exchanged

The first time I came across this riddle was in my secondary school. The riddle was featured in one of the comprehension passages for our English exam in WAEC, NECO, or a mock exam; I don’t remember which one it was. Our task was not to solve the riddle, as the passage already contained the answer, but to show how much we understood the argument in the passage by how we answered the questions that followed. Now, I had a friend, Nkem. After reading the comprehension passage, as if on cue, we exchanged a knowing look, a communication that was silent yet loaded with meaning, an exchange that showed our mutual appreciation of the story, its analysis and what it meant for our future. Looking back, I wonder how we got the time to enjoy that rare moment, nervous as we must have been while writing such an important exam and under time constraints.

Gender Bias

Embed from Getty Images.

When the riddle was first developed, the purpose was to cast light on the inherent gender bias we all have, our tendency to associate seeming more challenging jobs with men. For instance, our first thought when a doctor, an engineer, a software developer, a computer geek etc is mentioned is that the subject of the discussion must be a male. On the other hand, reference to a nurse, teacher, secretary etc, brings to our minds the image of a woman. At the time, researchers found that only 15% of the people surveyed came up with the obvious, simplest and most rationale answer to the question – that the surgeon was the patient’s mother. Of course it had to be, his father had died and the next person that could most naturally refer to him as their son was his mother.

Chimamanda Adichie, in her now viral talk on feminism told a story of her experience as a young girl that taught her that women were not the same as men, at least in the roles they were expected to play in the society. Their class teacher had wanted to appoint a monitor (prefect) for her class and announced before a certain test that whoever got the highest score was going to be the class monitor. Chimamanda got the highest score. But because she was a female, her teacher passed her over and made a boy who had a lower score than her the class prefect. Much as she had wanted to be the one holding the cane, patrolling the class and policing her classmates, Chimamanda was denied that right (or is it responsibility?) because of her gender. Sincerely, I have gender bias too. When a woman was recently appointed an assistant coach of an NBA team, I felt that she may not be effective in coaching male basketball players. I didn’t know her abilities, yet I prejudged her.

Unfortunately, this tendency to undermine women’s capabilities is largely reflected in the work place. As progressive a the United States is, it is often cited that a woman makes only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. The bias against women starts in the selection from a pool of job applicants. Some IBM executives made headlines recently when they were reportedly overheard during a lunch in a restaurant discussing their preference for male employees over their female counterparts. According to them, women often get pregnant. In fairness to them, they said they could hire a woman who is past child-bearing age. I leave it to you to imagine how successful a woman who has a bun in the oven would be if she applied for a job where any of those IBM executives were to decide her fate. Many working women are often scared to tell their bosses that they are pregnant lest they be perceived as less productive. It is also an open secret that some companies have policies that unfairly target married women. I know a woman of which as a condition for her employment, she was made to undertake that she would not be pregnant for a certain number of years. Because of the prejudice against married women in work places, many of them remove their wedding bands when they go for a job interview. Could the bias against women be the reason they feel reluctant to take up more challenging roles in the society? Could this be an example of a self-fulfilling prophecy?

To be sure, women face unique challenges that may negatively affect their performance in the work place. A woman who suffers from extreme nausea during pregnancy, who can barely keep anything down and loses as much as 20 pounds in her first trimester, will be less likely to function as effectively as his male counterpart who has no health issues. And how productive can a woman who work through labour and rushes to the hospital to have her baby after close of work be? And there are the house chores most women have to do when they get home from work each day including reviewing their children’s homework, preparing dinner, doing laundry etc. And yet women get little credit for effectively managing to do their day job while making sure the domestic front, their primary responsibility, doesn’t suffer.

Stay-at-home moms seeking to transition to the workforce don’t have it any easier. I was at a staffing agency sometime ago where I met a woman who had been staying home for a while with her kids but was now ready to work. Though she passed the written test the agency gave her, they told her that they couldn’t help her find a job because she lacked a recent job experience. I could sense her pain and desperation as she walked out of the office. I wondered if by taking care of her kids, the woman hadn’t shown that she was diligent, could multitask, work under pressure etc, which are qualities employers look for. Anyone who has had to stay at home to take care of children will tell you how exhausting it can be (Remember Lynette of Desperate Housewives?). Apart from having to keep up with their energy removing them from one source of danger after another, you have to work round their schedule and still manage to do your chores through their distractions. Since the staffing agency was for menial jobs, I wondered if, with the skills she had acquired as a stay-at-home mom, that unemployed mother couldn’t discharge the duties required of an assistant to a preschool teacher, deli shop worker, launder-mart attendant etc. Unfortunately, whatever experience she gained taking care of her children does not count; her years at home are deemed ‘wasted’. So apart from the guilt most women feel about leaving their little ones in the care of nannies and day care centers, they still have to deal with the stress of finding a job as most employers avoid them like the plague.

But we know that those years are not wasted. We know that taking care of our little ones is arguably the most important job there is. When during the US presidential campaigns in 2012, a critic opined that Ann Romney (wife of former presidential aspirant Mitt Romney) knew little about the economy because she never worked out of the home, one of her (Ann) sons took to Facebook and wrote: ‘Growing up, we never had a nanny or a ‘mommy’s helper.’ Never went to daycare. I was just one out of five, but always felt like I was the most important thing in her life. For my Mom to raise us 5 boys, the way she did, was, in my mind, the most demanding – and hopefully rewarding – work she could have done’. So if it true that women have to stay home at some point to nurture the future generation, wouldn’t it be necessary for companies to have policies that encourage taking in such women when they are ready to join the workforce. The current practice where they are discriminated against is reprehensible.

And I must say something about a society that plays double standards with respect to the way female executives are expected to conduct themselves. Women in management positions often walk on a tight rope. Either they are perceived as too weak or too aggressive. While a forceful male executive is seen as competent, a woman who attempts to be half as assertive is labelled a five letter word that starts with a b. In her book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, wrote about a social experiment in which two resumes stating business success were presented to various people. The resumes were identical except that one named a female job candidate and the other a male candidate. In most cases, people found the success of the male candidate to be appealing and the success of the female candidate to be worrisome.

The point is that if we realize that women have as much potential as men do and we acknowledge the unique challenges they face, then we may be willing to give them more opportunities to grow and challenge the existing stereotypes. We understand that a woman who spent a decade at home taking care of her kids may not be able to take up managerial positions, which means more pay, like her male counterpart who work through those years, but we should at least be willing to at least open the door for them in the first place to prove themselves.

Hope in the Horizon

As grim as the situation looks, many countries and companies already have policies in place that take into consideration the unique challenges their female employees face. In Nigeria, for instance, a woman is entitled to three months maternity leave during which she is to be paid at least half her salary provided that she had been with the company for at least six months. She is also entitled to two half-hour breaks each day for as long as she nurses her baby. Lagos State recently took it up a notch and now guarantees six months maternity leave with 100% pay to its employees. The extra benefits in Lagos State however applies to the first two babies the woman has. Fathers are also entitled to ten days paternity leave. It is a tad disappointing that while most countries in the world have similar programs varying in duration and percentage of salary payable during a maternity leave, the United States does not have laws that guarantee paid maternity leave to women. A woman who has difficulty paying her bills will be forced to return to work immediately after childbirth.

Worthy of mention is also the fact that some companies host daycare centers for their employees. Also to be commended are companies which have policies in place that reserve a certain number of positions for women. Such affirmative actions ensure that women attain positions they would not otherwise attain because of bias. On that note, women should see life as happening for them and not to them as there are still some benefits they enjoy by virtue of their gender.

I must acknowledge that men are becoming more involved at home, lessening the burden on women. And many of them are now making sacrifices to see that their wives also get to their career aspirations. So to my male readers, it means a lot when you help change the baby’s diaper, cut vegetables for dinner, put a toddler to bed, etc because then you are helping the women in your lives have more time to focus on and take one step closer to achieving their career goals. Women appreciate it and love you all the more for it. And to all executives, men and women, please give women more opportunities to grow.

And Just a Word on Generation Gap and Cultural Differences
Embed from Getty Images

When recently I looked up the ‘Who is the surgeon?’ riddle again, I was amazed at some of the interesting answers that people in the United States came up with when the survey was conducted this year, answers that reflect the changes that have taken place in the country’s values in recent years. I especially found interesting the role age played in the answers the participants gave. While most adults didn’t get the answer right, younger kids did. It appears that younger people are growing up to see women take up more challenging roles in the society, hence their inclination to associate the role of a surgeon with not just men, but women as well. Even younger people who didn’t give the ‘right’ answer came up with replies that showed they were more attuned to the trend of what a ‘modern’ American family looks like. For example, some of the kids suggested that the surgeon could be the boy’s step dad or that the boy had two dads (Gay dads), the surgeon being her second dad.

However in Nigeria, as in most parts of the world, it is unlikely that any child will come up with either ‘step dad’ or ‘second gay dad’ as the answer, since divorce and gay marriages are anathema in those regions.

Finally, remember Nkem, my secondary school friend, she is now a mechanical engineer and a lecturer, and she isn’t thirty yet. Is there a better way to challenge gender stereotypes? And yea, she is also a wife and mother. To her, my sisters, friends and all women who are supermoms (I am not yet one, at least according to the dictionary), thank you for contributing to the society in more than one way.

So how did you answer the riddle? And guys in the house, I know this post is from a lady’s perspective. Are there some benefits women enjoy in the work place that you don’t? Please let us know in the comments section.

PS: When I was writing this blog post, between trying to focus on my typing and trying to keep my cute eighteen month old ‘assistant’ from using the laptop as one more toy, I lost a version of the draft – a version that contained the most progress I had made in two weeks as I had been struggling with writer’s block. I had to start all over again. It’s an example of how challenging it is for those who do it both.

Another Way to Get a US Green Card

Embed from Getty Images

The demand for US visa by Nigerians has been so high in recent years that last year, Nigerian citizens did not qualify for the diversity visa lottery program. Many Nigerians get immigrant visa through their relatives who are United State citizens. But not everyone has an immediate relative that can petition on their behalf. Nonetheless, there is a lesser known visa category that leads to permanent residency in the US – the EB-5 Visa. I had been reluctant to share the information because I felt that the few who can come up with the $500,000 required for the category will have no interest in migrating to the US: They already found green pasture. However, with the rising insecurity in Nigeria, it could well be that there may be people who may want to consider it. Below is an overview of the program.

EB-5 Visa

Below is an excerpt from this US government webiste on the EB-5 visa.

‘The Immigrant Investor Program, also known as “EB-5,” was created by Congress in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors. Entrepreneurs (and their spouses and unmarried children under 21) who make an investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States and who plan to create or preserve ten permanent full time jobs for qualified United States workers, are eligible to apply for a green card (permanent residence).

Up to 10,000 visas may be authorized each fiscal year for eligible entrepreneurs.

A person must invest $1,000,000, or at least $500,000 in a targeted employment area (high unemployment or rural area). In return, USCIS may grant conditional permanent residence to the individual.

A person may receive permanent residence based on investment if:

1. They have an approved Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur
2. They are admissible to the United States
3. An immigrant visa is immediately available

An applicant’s Spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21, (known as derivatives) may be included on the immigration petition.’

Evidence Required to Grant the Immigration Petition

To succeed in the permanent residency application, an applicant must support his application with the following evidence:
1. Evidence that he has established a lawful business entity under the laws of the jurisdiction in the United States in which it is located, or, if he has made an investment in an existing business, evidence that his investment has caused a substantial (at least 40 percent) increase in the net worth of the business, the number of employees, or both.
2. Evidence, if applicable, that his enterprise has been established in a targeted employment area. This needs to be proved if the applicant invested only $500,000. He needs not prove this if he invested $1,000,000
3. Evidence that the applicant has invested or is actively in the process of investing the amount required for the area in which the business is located.
4. Evidence that capital is obtained through lawful means.
5. Evidence that the enterprise will create at least 10 full-time positions for U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or aliens lawfully authorized to be employed (The applicant, his/her spouse, sons or daughters, and any non immigrant aliens are not taken into account for this purpose).
6. Evidence that applicant is or will be engaged in the management of the enterprise, either through the exercise of day-to-day managerial control or through policy formulation.
See link for details of the above from the USCIS website.

The Investment

Many people who are interested in the program worry that they may not be able to run a business efficiently in a country they are new to. But there are a couple of options that allow minimal participation by the investor. One is Franchising. By opening a franchise an investor receives legal permission to use the brand, trademark, and product line or service of an already established company to open new locations which follow the business model of the franchisor – See more at: http://www.hooyou.com/news/news2012/news122812eb5.html#sthash.Nwy0XLGd.dpuf.

An investor could also decide to invest through Regional Centers approved by the United States government. Regional Center is defined as any economic entity, public or private, which is involved with the promotion of economic growth, improved regional productivity, job creation and increased domestic capital investment. Like I said, investing through Regional centers lessens the burden on an investor from engaging directly in the day to day running of the business. Here’s a link to USCIS’s list of approved Regional Centers. Note however that the US does not guarantee a green card or return on investment merely because an applicant invested through a Regional Center. An applicant will still have to prove those conditions listed in the Evidence section before he can be granted a visa. Also see this link from USCIS warning prospective investors of Regional Center Scams. Among other things, an applicant is advised to ensure that a Regional center through which they intend to invest is listed in the USCIS website; to request the investment information in writing; to inquire if promoters are being paid and to seek independent verification on claims made about the investment. The USCIS also warns an investor to be especially careful if an investor makes a definite promise of a green card as that decision lies solely with the USCIS. Prospective investors are also warned to be wary of enterprises that promise a guaranteed investment on return with no risk, and of unregistered investments.

The USCIS emphatically warns that If an investment through EB-5 turns out to be in a fraudulent securities offering, an applicant may lose both his money and his path to lawful permanent residency in the United States. In other words, the USCIS expects every prospective investor to do their due diligence.

Considerations in Making a Decision aAbout an EB-5 visa

Like every important decision in life, one should be careful and weigh his options before deciding whether he wants to go on to make an investment in the United States in return for a green card. Apart from the inherent risk in making such a huge investment on a business he, in some cases, has little or no control over, if granted a Green Card, an investor must establish residence in the U.S. and he must be present in the U.S. at least 180 days/year (unless they apply for a re-entry permit). He must also declare his worldwide income and assets in the U.S. for tax purposes. Moreover, the permanent residency granted initially is only conditional for two years after which it will be reviewed to grant a permanent residency. If a business is still viable after the two years, an investor shouldn’t have to worry. And on a lighter note, one downside to living in the United States is that some lifestyles and luxuries which are easily enjoyed in Nigeria are not readily sustainable here. For example, while one may readily afford a chauffeur and several domestic helps in Nigeria, it is difficult to make enough money to afford such services in the United States. As trivial as this issue may sound, I mentioned it because I have heard many people express concern about it.

On the upside, if granted permanent residency, an investor can live in the U.S. State of his/her choice with his or her family, and does not need to manage the investment business. EB-5 investors may also work for any employer in any position, may operate their own business or they may choose to retire. EB-5 investors and their family members can freely enjoy the many benefits of permanent residence in the U.S. The children of EB-5 green card holders are free to work or to attend the school of their choice, and they qualify for scholarships and in-state tuition.

Finally, Some Trivia

* Canada had a similar program the minimum amount of which was required to be invested was C$800,000. They however terminated the program in June this year.
* UK runs a similar program for a minimum of 1,000,000 pounds
* The US also grant a temporary residency status under a visa type called E-2 visa to people who make substantiate investment in a business in the United States. There is no minimum amount required but most applicants invest around $100,000. However, it has more restrictions and applicants must be from a country with a treaty to that effect with the US. Unfortunately, Nigeria doesn’t have a treaty with US for that visa category.
* The applications for EB-5 visa has been in high demand in recent years that a backlog is anticipated this year. Chinese make up about 80% of the applicants.

So there it is, another option for those looking for a path to residency in the United States.

Disclaimer: The information above is not a legal advice. It is a mere overview of the Eb-5 visa program. I wrote this to get the word out there for those who may be interested to make further research. The only reliable source of information and upon which any decision should be based is the United States government website, USCIS.gov . You may also consult your attorney for more information.

CHIELO: One Little Girl’s Journey to Finding a Career

When she got older, Chielo was told that she never went to a nursery school, and that on her first day in primary school, she came home with illegible scrawls drawn haphazardly on her 20 Leaves notebook. When her sisters asked her what she had written, what the scrawls drawn in circular motions were, she grumbled that she didn’t know what those people in school were doing. At six, Chielo was known to be strong-willed and impatient; She insisted that her younger siblings, Elonna and Somadinna, with whom she ate fufu every night after coming home from Block Rosary Crusade, did not pick up vegetables from the soup with each swallow of a morsel but only when she said so. And whenever she gave the go-ahead, Elonna was prudent enough to pick up as much vegetables as he could, carefully cupping his free hand under the overloaded morsel to catch any leaves that could fall off the food as it made its way to his mouth; he didn’t know the next time ‘small madam’ would be benevolent enough to allow him taste the onugbu (bitter leaves) that always came in long strands and that always tried to fall off his fufu, as if determined that he would not have them. Somadina didn’t care much about vegetables. Whenever their mum cooked porridge yam with ugu leaves, he wondered why anybody would overwhelm and subdue the sweet and earthy taste of the otherwise yellow sauce with some tasteless leaves. But their mother always admonished them to eat vegetables because it was good for them. She would say, ‘o na-enye obara’, literally, that it gives blood.

Chielo also insisted that her brothers only dip each fufu ball, ‘okpoko’, into the soup only once, and only long enough to make a small circular mark in the soup. Staying longer inside the soup plate or making a mark beyond the circle was not allowed. It meant the offender had taken up more soup than was permitted and was sure to be reprimanded by her. Her brothers only extended beyond the circular point to draw a line only when ‘small madam’ gave the order. And Elonna was sure to move his morsel of fufu long enough from one end of the plate to the other so that the mark left on the plate, when the soup is thick, forms the diameter of a circle. Because Chielo said so, they ate in turns, morsel after morsel, so that no one ate up more food than the other. However, everybody was allowed to make each ball as big as their throat could allow to pass through. Chielo must have been at an advantage because being older, the hole in her throat must have been larger than her brothers’. She often wondered why she had to eat with her younger brothers, why she couldn’t have her on plate of fufu and soup. She always thought that if she did, she would save the vegetables for last and only use the liquid part of the soup for her fufu. The vegetables would be taken last, as a piece of meat would, since it was only occasionally that they found meat on their food, often the first day the soup was cooked.

Chielo’s performance and attitude on her first day of school didn’t change throughout her first year in primary school. Her school report card continued to be filled with red ink until her second year when her mother decided that no child of hers was going to be ‘an iti’, a mediocre. After all, both herself and her children’s father, her husband, used to do well in school. Their father especially always came first in class. Chielo found it interesting that no adult ever admitted to ‘carrying the class in the head’ in their school days. And one day in school, when her primary 2 teacher boasted about how she used to be among the best in her standard school days, Chielo suspected that since she didn’t say that she used to take the first position, that she must have always come in the fourth or fifth place in a class of ten pupils. She thought that her teacher was being economical with the truth.

After her mother decided that enough was enough, that willy-nilly, Chielo must become as intelligent as her elder sisters, she made out time in the evenings to review her school work with her. She wanted her to join her sisters to say ‘Agbara m firstu’ , I came in first place, when their uncles asked them about their academic performance during the Christmas holidays. Chielo’s mother went on to tame her stubbornness. She reproved her when, because of her impatience, she didn’t make enough effort to get a word right;her mother thought that gave up easily. She taught her how to read her ‘Macmillan’s Reader’. Chielo mostly crammed the passages. ‘Agbo lives in the town of Lagun, which was not far from Ibadan. He went to primary school…’ her voice would trail of until she fell asleep on her mother’s laps. On some days, her mother would let her fall asleep or go to play with her sister only if she got every word in the passage right. Did her mother know that she couldn’t actually read, that if a word was taken out of the passage, that she would not be able to pronounce it? Chielo would never know. Her mother’s knowledge or otherwise of her secret didn’t matter because by the next academic year, her result improved. She came in second place in her class. She was thrilled. However, because her success came only after she and her mother ran into her teacher in church, she wasn’t sure if she really deserved credit or if the teacher was ‘doing pashia’, was being partial towards her because they had become somehow acquainted. When she went on to the next class headed by another teacher and took the first position, she knew it was for real, that she was officially a good student.

Like her older sisters, Chielo was destined to go to a private secondary school. She did and continued to trade first, second and third positions with two other girls. One day, when one of her teachers caught her crying because Yadiba, her rival who was also her best friend, had come in first place and she in second, her teacher chided her for her lack of sportsmanship.

Chielo continued to do well into her senior secondary. When the decision came to join Arts or Science class, she said she preferred the Arts. But her family and teachers, except for her English teacher, said no, that with a brain like hers, she was more suited for the sciences, that it will be waste of gray matter if she joined the Arts class. However, because her school mandated every SS1 student to take all courses so that they would be in a position to make an informed decision, Chielo was both a Science and Arts student in her first year in senior secondary. By her second year, she knew she preferred the Arts but again, well-meaning family members encouraged her to give Science another shot. Partly because of that and partly because she couldn’t resist the allure of a ‘Dr’ before her name, she joined the Science class. When she couldn’t memorize the periodic table-twenty elements and their atomic numbers, Chielo contemplated joining the Arts class for the umpteenth time.

Chielo took mostly science subjects in her WAEC. In later years, she would think it was Providence that made her also take Literature, a move that would later be her saving grace. She loved literature. Her eldest sister Nwanyidimma had helped ignite her passion for books. When Nwanyidimma was in secondary school and Chielo was still in primary school, Nwanyidimma stayed up late at night to tell her stories from Macbeth, The Lonely Londoners, and The Mayor of Casterbridge. By the time she was in Primary six, Chielo could read fluently in both Igbo and English. Every evening, she would read a portion of Urunwa by Ojo Maduekwe to her mother, her mother who had taught her how to read.

Either because she wasn’t as good as her family had thought or because she had made up her mind that she hated science, Chielo flunked Physics and Chemistry in WAEC. Her Jamb result wasn’t any better. When time came to take her GCE, she combined as many Science and Arts subjects as were allowed to make up the nine subjects she was required to take. This time, she insisted on taking Arts courses in her Jamb and she did exceedingly well without a ‘machinery’- a professional exam-taker, usually a university student, who applied for exams only to help students who had arranged for his assistance in ‘Special Centers’. When her eldest sister saw her Jamb result, she exclaimed: ‘You got this score with this your little head?’

With her outstanding Jamb result, it was obvious she wasn’t destined to be a scientist. Because Chielo had bought the idea that studying law was the preserve of bright students who didn’t want to be in Science class, becoming a lawyer was her first consideration. But after hearing terrible stories about lawyers and how they were all liars, Chielo decided it wasn’t meant for her. She didn’t want to go to hellfire. Because she was good in Math, she decided she was going to study Accountancy. She had come to realize that there weren’t many options for ‘professional’ courses in Arts as they were in the Sciences. No wonder everyone wanted her to study science so she could choose from Medicine, Engineering (there were several of them), Pharmacy, Optometry, Dentistry etc.

One day, Chielo mentioned to one of her mates that she was going to be an accountant. The mate casually inquired why she didn’t want to become an attorney so that she could be self-employed and not waste her time searching for non-existent jobs after graduation from the university. Once again, being an attorney was back into consideration. But she was still worried that her ‘faith’ would not allow her become a lawyer. When her sister and brother-in-law came to visit, she told them that she was considering studying law. She told them her reservations about the profession which included that she had heard that men were afraid of female lawyers, that men thought they were too much trouble so female lawyers ended up being unmarried. Her brother-in-law, Udokamma, whose facial expression showed he was slightly amused, said something along the lines of ‘No, that is not true. If anything, being an attorney makes a woman, for want of a better word, more marketable’. In later years, when she took interest in basketball, each time she saw Tim Duncan on TV, Chielo would be reminded of her brother-in-law. Their similarity lied in their height and personality.

Her concern that being a lawyer was a sure ticket to hell persisted into her days in the university. From time to time however, she got an assurance from a wise adult that she could be a good attorney, that there were honest attorneys who did not sell justice to the highest bidder. There was the monsignor in her parish, Mosignor Nduka, who prayed that God will bless her intentions when she told him that she wanted to use her profession to serve the poor, a lie many members of the profession tell themselves the fallacy of which they realize only when they make their first money. There was also the elderly attorney from her town who was also a Catholic knight who when she told him that she heard that attorneys were buried face down, was stunned and said that he, after decades in the profession, had never heard that. Chielo always found it fascinating that the subject of a rumor was always the last in the distribution chain.

When she became an adult, Chielo would attempt to talk a little girl into becoming an attorney and would try to talk a young boy out of becoming a hip hop singer (after his upset mother came running to her). But when Chielo was tempted to convince a young girl to become a medical doctor, a girl she knew will make a good physician, a girl who when she was barely five years was so responsible and caring that she covered Chielo up with a blanket when she found her asleep, she resisted the temptation.

Chielo did very well in her university as a law student. She also passed her Law School exam on her first attempt. The same year she finished law school, she was admitted into the Nigerian Bar. She knew she will make a positive difference in her profession, that she would defend those who have no one to speak for them. That was, until she too realized the fallacy. It was then it dawned on her that it would take determination to not sell her soul to earn a living.

PS: The views that may have been implied in this story are not necessarily the author’s; she was more interested in writing a good story.

How Nigerian Universities Can Process Transcripts Promptly and Efficiently

Embed from Getty Images

People who graduated from certain schools often wish that their business with their alma mater ends with throwing up graduation caps into the air. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Pursing postgraduate education and job search both have a way of sending one back there. And for some, trying to get a transcript will have them reliving the hell they suffered as undergraduates. Many graduates from Nigerian universities go through a lot of difficulty to get a transcript. Some people I know who otherwise have good morals resorted to forging transcripts to avoid the frustration and delay that characterize application for transcripts in Nigeria. But processing a transcript application shouldn’t be a hassle. Here are some suggestions, based on what some premium universities are already doing, on how higher institutions can cut their costs and process transcript applications more efficiently.

1. Digitize Students’ Records

As obvious as it is that digitizing students’ records is the first step towards ensuring that graduates obtain their transcripts hassle-free, many Nigerian universities still keep their students’ records on paper, sometimes in loose sheets, which occasionally get lost or misplaced while in the care of a careless civil servant. In Imo State University for example, a former student couldn’t get his transcript because his file was missing.

Besides being less prone to damage and loss, digitized records can be more easily searched for specific contents than records on paper. The difference between having records in digital form or on hard copy is demonstrated by my experience with different land registries as a young attorney in Eastern Nigeria . In Abia State, because registrations and titles to land have been digitized, it took only minutes or at most a couple of hours to apply for and get the result of a title search. In Imo State however, because they still have their records on paper (as at three years ago), the staff had to look through piles of dusty files that have turned brown due to age. The effect was that conducting a title search in Imo State took days and thus several trips to Owerri, and was much more expensive and inconvenient. Needless to say that the additional cost, financial and otherwise, was invariably transferred to clients.

2. Have Relevant Information Online

While writing this article, of the several Nigerian universities’ websites I visited, I found only two universities which have information on how to apply for a transcript with them. Nigerian Law School does too. It bothered me that though many of the universities had alumni sections, they had no information on how to obtain a transcript. If a school is not committed to the welfare of their graduates, what will motivate such graduates to go back to them to attend a fundraising event or to give back to the school? It is embarrassing that one can get more information on how to get a transcript from Nigerian universities on chatrooms like Nairaland than from the universities’ websites. These schools unwittingly leave it to others to define who they are. I know of a university in Nigeria which when you google, the first pages that come up are loaded with disparaging comments from their disgruntled students. I do hope that schools like that one get their IT departments to use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to improve their online reputation or they may soon be out of business.

Although it is ideal that students be given the opportunity to order and pay for their transcripts online, I will come to that later, it is unlikely that all Nigerian universities can afford to do that at this time. What is attainable however is Nigerian universities putting up information on their websites informing prospective applicants of how much they charge to send a transcript to each country, the average processing time, a sample of the application form and details of what documents an applicant needs to attach if applicable. For one school I tried to reach however, (their website was more useful than most in this regard), they had an email address available for transcript inquiries on their website. When I sent them an email, they replied that I must send someone to the school to apply for my transcript if I couldn’t come myself. A subsequent email to them inquiring about the cost of the transcript and what documents my proxy will need for the application was not replied. I tried calling the number listed on their website for the Exams and Records department but it was not functional. The one listed for the Registrar went through. When I inquired how much the fee for the transcript was, he said that I must send someone. I pointed out to him that there was no information online of what was required for transcript application to which he said something along the lines of: ‘If you were a student here, you should know that we DON’T do anything online, you must come down here’. When I reasoned that I should at least know what to give to the person making the application on my behalf, he said: ‘He will let you know whatever information you need when he comes here’ after which he hung up the phone. I sensed a reprimand n his voice when he stated that I should have known that they don’t do things online. And this is 21st century!

I guess that, like is obtainable in most Nigerian universities, the school expects applicants to make several trips to the school; the first to make inquiries, the second to come with what is required for the application, and then several more trips that will invariably involve: ‘tipping’ the Exams and Records staff who will locate the file, giving lunch money or money for ‘malt’ to the one who will type out the transcript, and finally coming with some money in a brown envelope to ‘appreciate’ the big oga or madam who has the very important job of sealing the transcript. It is Nigeria after all where public servants expect the people they are meant to serve to ‘tip’ them for doing the very job they are employed to do.

3. Make Provision for Mail or Online Application

Automating transactions help reduce corruption, corruption which is the bane of development in Nigeria. If Nigerian Universities make provision for students to order their transcripts online or at least apply for them by mail, electronic or otherwise, it will reduce the incidence of corrupt civil servants asking for money from already struggling and unemployed graduates. In other words, if graduates can apply for their transcripts without having to be physically present in schools, there will be no opportunity for civil servants to ask them for extra fees that never make it to the school coffers. It will also make it easier for Nigerians in diaspora to apply for their transcripts without having to bother anyone to go to their almae matres on their behalf. Again my experience when I tried to get a certificate of good standing from the Supreme Court of Nigeria for submission to another jurisdiction illustrates this point.

When I applied for the certificate, I couldn’t visit Abuja so my only option was to look at the Supreme Court of Nigeria’s website to see what information I could find on how to make the application. I had braced for the worst knowing how nonfunctional most Nigerian government websites are and how dated their last updates could be. Although I didn’t get any information on how to get a certificate of good standing from the Supreme Court’s website, after series of emails to contacts I found on the website, I got a reply from no other than the Registrar of the Supreme Court himself. Perhaps because I got through to him directly, in less than ten days, I got an email from the IT department telling me my certificate of good standing was ready for pick up. I didn’t spend a dime in the whole application process. I didn’t have any one do a legwork for me. I simply sent my application letter via email with a copy of my call to bar certificate attached. (To read my experience in detail, see here). I believe the only reason I had this pleasant experience was that I didn’t have to deal with several civil servants who are good at creating artificial bureaucracy that only gets lifted when they are tipped. The story would have been different if I had walked into the Supreme Court to make the application. Till today, I look back to the whole experience and assure myself that Nigeria can be better, that we know how to cut through the bureaucracy and give decent service to Nigerian citizens.

Regrettably, my experience with the Supreme Court is uncommon in Nigeria. The situation is even more hopeless for Nigerians in diaspora. Except they have a reliable relative or friend to make their application and do the follow-up for them, they are forced to go back to Nigeria for their transcripts. I know someone whose job prospects in the United States was delayed for years because it took two years to get her transcript from a Nigerian university. While researching for this article, I read of a man in the United States who had someone doing the application for him in Nigeria. Once the university employees learnt that he was in the United States, they kept on demanding money and telling stories to delay his application.

I understand that Nigerian universities may be wary of processing transcript applications made by mail because of the prevalence of fraud in Nigeria. I appreciate that that may require a way to verify the identity of applicants. In my opinion, the issue can be easily addressed by requiring people applying for transcripts to attach a copy of their degree certificates. That way, someone who has no business requesting for it cannot apply successfully as they will not have the certificate to prove their identity.

Moreover I know a very hardworking Nigerian lady in her early thirties who have two successful online businesses. For one of her stores which carries wholesale products, individual transactions run into hundreds of thousands of Naira. If a young woman, an individual, is able to manage such a huge business with all the risk involved, there is no reason Nigerian university should hesitate to use efficient means to serve their graduates. A university ought to be a beacon of light and take the lead in bringing great ideas and innovations in its community.

4. Reduce the Fees

If the suggestions above are followed, it will lead to a reduction in human labor required to process a transcript and so cut cost for universities. When the savings are transferred to applicants and transcript fees are reduced, more graduates will apply for their transcripts and resist the temptation to forge them. The following example shows that reduced cost naturally comes with efficiency. A young Nigerian needed transcripts from two universities, Imo State University (IMSU) and Nnamdi Azikiwe University (NAU). He spent N30,000 plus tip to apply for his transcript in IMSU and after months, he still hadn’t got it because the school had lost his file – apparently they still keep their records on paper. However, he got the one from NAU for only N10,000, with no tips, within two weeks. In the United States, because most of the records are digitized, students get their transcripts for as little as $3(N480).

A Stellar Example from University of Nigeria Nsukka

I was thrilled when in the course of writing this blog I discovered that the University of Nigeria, Nsukka has already introduced I-Transcript Service. A publication on their website reads in part:

“The introduction of the service is to ease the burden of students who often have to travel from within and outside the country for the sole purpose of getting a transcript of their academic records for graduate records or employment.

This (I-Transcript Service) will enable alumni /alumnae of the university all over the world to apply for their transcripts from the comfort of their homes and conclude transcript request online and in real time. It would also improve efficiency in transcript processing, enabling transcript to be generated, printed, endorsed and dispatched via a courier company within 24 hours”.

It is accessible on the university website alumni.unn.edu.ng/itranscript. Users are expected to fill a form with their names, matriculation number as well as email address. They can provide details of the institution to which they want the university to send the transcript’

The website went on to state that the i-transcript service was borne out of the on-going work on digitizing academic records in the institution. The first part of the exercise was the digitization of records of the last 30 years up to 1980. The school has digitized records of students’ academic work for the last 20 years. In the second phase, the university would compile records up to its inception in 1960.

It was good to know that the university has identified the problem and, like a premium university it is, has taken the lead in proffering a solution.

EXT-NG (Electronic Transcript Exchange and Certificate Verification System for Nigeria)

My research also shows that Covenant University has a similar system but carries it out through EXT-NG. EXT-NG it appears is a one stop shop for all Nigerian universities for efficient transcript issuance. Its website shows that it partners with National Universities Commission and NBTE.

On its website, EXT-NG articulated the difficulty faced by Nigerians in diaspora seeking to get their transcripts as follows: ‘Aside from the official fee to be paid to the school, facilitators within the school system would also need to be paid or “greased”. Moreover, friends and relatives who spent their time going back and forth must also be compensated. Transcript (and postage) that ordinarily should cost no more than N10,000 for example, may end up costing the requester upward of N40,000. You can’t even quantify the cost of time spent, along with the stress and other incalculable resources. And indeed, there is no guarantee that the requested documents will arrive, or arrive in a timely fashion to its required destination’.

EXT-NG’s website further shows how efficient their service is which includes: providing Convenient 24/7 Access so that graduates can make their applications from the comfort of their homes; making it possible for applicants to track their transcripts once it is sent; instantaneous delivery so that official transcripts can now be sent and received anywhere in the world (for participating institutions) within seconds.

While the EXT-NG is a welcome development and may fill a void many universities created, it is doubtful they can be of any use to students whose almae matres have yet to digitize their records.

Conclusion

I understand that there are some unique challenges universities may face in implementing these suggestions which, as an outsider, I may not be aware of. I hope that this article at least starts the conversation.

Finally, while the focus of this bog was on universities, the recommendations made can be applied in all government and private establishments for increased efficiency. I have showcased the success some universities have had in this regard in the I hope that others who desire to provide quality service to their students will consult them for ideas on how to get it right.

I am sure that if transcript processing becomes efficient in Nigeria, we will have first-rate schools able to compete favorably with other global institutions. We will also have more confident and happier graduates. However, I cannot guarantee wealthier Exams and Records staff.

Have an experience you will love to share? Got more ideas on how to improve the system? Tell us in the comments section. You never know who will be reading it. And if you love this post, please share. Let’s be the change we want!

Update: July 2017- See this post for the easiest way to get transcript from any Nigerian university. It’s based on my personal experience.

Remebering Mr Nwosuagwu, Mrs Ekechukwu and Mazi Ubaka

Embed from Getty Images

Before writing this enrty, I searched the internet and found nothing on any of the above three, my secondary school teachers, who have all passed away. This is my little way of immortalizing them and making their legacies live.

Mr Damian Nwosuagwu

When Sir Nwosuagwu first came to our school, the rumor was that our school had offered him more money to get him to leave another top private school in town. My school needed him to help improve our science class. Not long after he came, he was made the Dean of Studies and with it came the added responsibility of instilling discipline in not-so-well-behaved girls in a Catholic school. And instill discipline he did! It only took a yell of ‘Sir Nwosuagwu is coming!’ from a girl sitting close to the window to stop a delinquent student from further engaging in whatever mischief she was involved in.

Mr Nwosuagwu went on to improve our science class. He introduced Further Mathematics to the few students who were willing to ‘endure’ an elective course with him. Most of the students had enough of him from his General Mathematics class. Nonetheless, I had a certain respect and admiration for him. It was Sir Nwosuagwu who taught us how to know  at a glance if a numbers is divisible by a single digit number. For example, I know instinctively, without solving the math, that 468 is divisible by 3. Yes, because the sum of its digits is divisible by 3 i.e, (4+6+8=18) 18 can be divided by 3 to give 6, a whole number. And however many digits a number contains, if the last two digits together is divisible by 4, then the entire number must be divisible by 4. Again, for example, without doing the math, I know that 5,679,348 is divisible by 4 because 48 is divisible by 4. The divisibility rule is one of the things I learnt in school that didn’t leave me. And trust me, many did including Almighty Formula and Standard Deviation(did you ever wonder in secondary school what use those were? I still do.) See here if you will love to learn more of the rules.

Thanks to Sir Nwosuagwu, I still have average basic Math skill despite the reputation lawyers have in some quarters for being bad in Math. (I was thrilled when I reviewed some standardized tests recently and found that I still remember the area and circumference of a circle! Don’t judge me Engineers. It’s a big deal for me, I have no need for Calculus).

Besides being a Math genius, Sir Nwosuagwu also played the role of a life coach. Despite our Unruliness, he cared enough to teach us some life lesson. It was from Sir Nwosuagwu (or his friend) that I first heard that saying that genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. When I reunited with a secondary school friend about eight years after our graduation, we differed on how Nwosuagwu imprinted that truth in our very much impressionable minds. My friend remembered Nwosuagwu saying it himself but from my recollection, Mr Nwosuagwu brought one of his friends to talk to us. The friend must have given a very good one because I recalled that he ended his speech with that saying and left the class as quickly as he had entered.

Mrs Isabella Ekechukwu

Aunty Isabella wasn’t your typical teacher ; she drove a car to school – something we considered a luxury at the time – and always wore well-tailored matching skirt and blouse. She was light skinned and had a gap between her front teeth. Thanks to Elechi Amadi’s depiction of Ihuoma in The Concubine, I still consider both proof a woman’s beauty. Now, I am baffled any time a dentist recommends closing gaps between teeth.

Mrs Ekechukwu helped hone our English Language proficiency. Her Impromptu Speech series during morning assemblies taught us to speak good English while literally thinking on our feet. Her reluctance to give an A made us work harder. I give credit to Mrs Ekechukwu for being part of the team helped me build the foundation in my use of English. Though she hardly meted out corporal punishment, we used to joke that her blunt and honest remarks directed at errant students were equally as scarring. Despite her intolerance for mediocrity, she genuinely cared about our welfare and showed us motherly affection. My fondest memory of her was when on an occasion, she stopped to ask me about some bug bites she had seen on my skin.

Mazi Ubaka

I knew Sir Ubaka for barely two years (or was it three?). We learnt of his death after we returned from a long vacation from one of my Junior Secondary classes. I never knew his first name. He was dark, a little plump and of average height. He taught us CRK (Christian Religious Knowledge) and CCD (Catechism of Catholic Doctrine). It didn’t matter that I didn’t know him for a long time. One thing he taught us would in later years be the subject of numerous family meetings, countless sermons from pulpits, and would cost government agencies millions of Naira on billboards and TV ads in the campaign against HIV and Aids. He advised us to say three Hail Marys everyday imploring the Virgin Mary to give us a certain virtue.

Playing Our Parts

I don’t know at what age any of these remarkable teachers died, but in my estimation, none of them lived past sixty. Their deaths are a sad reminder of how ephemeral and fleeting life is. We just need to play our parts and influence as many people as we can in a positive way. They did play their parts remarkably well and I do hope ( as one of my other teacher used to say, albeit mockingly, in mild protest of the pittance teachers are paid) that teachers’ rewards are in heaven. In my opinion, that’s where these amazing teachers who guided me, and other young girls, should be.

Do you have a teacher who influenced you or a fond memory of one of them? Please share in the comments section below. Don’t have time to give details? Simply write their names and anyone who comes here will appreciate your effort to honor them.

A New, Convenient and Easy Way to Wash Bitter Leaves

Embed from Getty Images

Rolling out big mortars from the kitchen to the yard or balcony (depending on whether we were in the village or city); bruised knuckles from repeatedly rubbing my hands against the mortar; several visits to the room with a small sample of bitter leaf to ask my elder sister ‘O chalaa?’, ‘Is it done?’ – those are the memories I have of washing bitter leaves as a child. Sometimes, my siblings and I took turns doing the cycles, which could be as many as eight. We would swirl and knead the leaves to get rid of the bitterness and then squeeze to extract excess water. We would dispose of the dirty water, add fresh water to the mortar, and repeat the process all over again. Watching the first suds appear; seeing the water turn from black to green and finally clear; and watching the suds disappear gradually all brought some relief that progress was being made. We would spread the leaves out in the sun before washing them. This helped them wilt a tad, become less brittle and prevented breakage during washing. The swirling and kneading also had to be done gently to ensure the end product remained in long strands. Sometimes, we added palm kernel or oil to reduce the suds so that we could concentrate on the task of removing the bitterness in an otherwise magnificent leaf. Buying prewashed leaves from the market was out of the question. They came in shreds and still had some bitter taste. Bringing the leaves to a boil could help reduce the bitterness but that wasn’t welcomed in my house.

I always knew that sooner rather than later, someone would come up with an idea of how to make the task easier. But each time I googled for an alternative, I saw only the old-fashioned way. I wondered how the kids we have these days with their penchant for easy life and short attention span can withstand doing a mundane chore that takes more than an hour.

Someone had always told me that a little modification of the washing machine would produce an invention that could wash bitter leaves. But from what I learnt few days ago, people aren’t waiting for that modification. We visited an amazing family and our hosts, after giving us some fresh bitter leaves, showed us the new way they wash ‘onugbu’ – a portable washing machine that is designed for washing clothes. The brand they showed us was from Basecamp.

When I got home, I looked through the internet to see if the idea was already popular in Nigeria. It appeared it wasn’t. The only related information was a thread on Nairaland where someone listed inventing a bitter leaf washing machine as one way one could get rich. I found however that using washing machine to wash leaves was becoming a trend among people in the western world. They use it to wash collard green, a slightly bitter vegetable. Some use the same machine they use for their clothes for their vegetables but I won’t recommend that, for hygienic reasons. Besides, there were reports that fragments of leaves were left inside the machine afterwards and that they transfer to clothes that are subsequently washed. There were suggestions that the sanitation problem can be cured by using chlorine to run an empty cycle before washing the greens and doing same afterwards to remove whatever debris and smell the green could transfer to clothes. There were also recommendations to use the machine’s delicate wash setting and only do the rinse and spin cycle to reduce shredding of the leaves. Our hosts had said the leaves don’t come out in long stands, I guess the way Nigerians like it.

Given how pricey it is ($100-$150), it is unlikely the portable machine will soon replace mortars in most household for washing bitter leaves. There’s is also the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (they sure can hold power) to worry about. Nonetheless this creative use of the washing machine will come in handy for people who sell prewashed bitter leaves for a living since they produce it in large quantities. Those of them in the US are already doing that. Middle and upper class Nigerian families, they are growing by the day, can readily afford it too. They already use electric blenders to puree coco yams for ‘ofe ede’. One more gadget that removes the other difficult task will be welcomed so that they can cook the flavorful but time-consuming soup more often.

Finally, if you are looking for a business idea, how about taking up the task of working with washing machine manufacturers to produce a simpler and more affordable device that is more suitable for washing leaves? There is a huge market for it in Nigeria. Who knows how rich you can become?

Please let me know your thoughts on this creative use of the washing machine.

Genevieve Nnaji: They Said She Said

Embed from Getty Images

I was watching a TV show today (July 3, 2015) when one of the co-hosts, Kelly, told a story of how while on Vacation in Utah with her husband, Mark, people she ran into kept asking her if she was there in Utah with Mark to which she replied, yes. Unknown to Kelly, Mark Wahlberg, a popular US actor was also in Utah to shoot a film. It wasn’t until she was asked ‘so you are going to be in the movie?’ to which she replied, ‘what movie?’ did she realize there had been a miscommunication – people had been asking about Mark the actor and she had been answering with her husband in mind. When she finished narrating the story, she and her fellow co-host Michael Strahan said: ‘And that’s how rumors get started’.

Later in the day, I was on the internet when I saw that Genevieve Nnaji had reportedly, in a Punch Interview, made not so flattering comments about Nollywood – the industry that made her. She had said among other things that Nollywood was ‘bland and mediocre’ and that was the reason she accepted fewer roles as there weren’t many scripts that had the depth and creativity she loves to see in a script.

Following a backlash from Nollywood on her choice of words, Genevieve took to Twitter and said ‘I never called my industry bland and mediocre. Truth or not, they were NOT MY WORDS. As a person/writer, you can “assume” what you like about my thought process but DO not project those thoughts as “quotes” by me. It’s distasteful, insensitive and quite unprofessional. It’s insulting to those limited few working hard to make a difference in the industry. I am a product of Nollywood and my loyalty remains unshaken’

I have read her interview with The Punch in its entirety and I see no intention by The Punch, which by the way is a reputable newspaper in Nigeria, to harm Genevieve’s reputation. Taking things out of context sometimes distort the meaning at the heart of an interview like the one in question. However, I noticed that the part of the interview that contained the bland and mediocre remark was in quotation marks so anybody reading the interview can reasonably infer that those were the exact words used by Genevieve. If Genevieve didn’t use the exact words, then it was irresponsible of The Punch to pass them on as hers.

That said, Genevieve’s observations about Nollywood were dead-on and the media circus that has been created by her comments are unwarranted. I am selective of Nigerian movies I watch. If it doesn’t have Genevieve, RMD (does he still act?), Omotala Jalade, and recently Nse Ikpe Etim, it hardly piques my interest. I also watch movies directed by Tchidi Chikere or Amaka Igwe ( a pity we lost such a talent that directed classics like Violated and Rattle snake. I noticed she doesn’t have a Wikipedia page yet. Please create one for her if you have a Wikipedia account. She is notable enough). Movies produced by Ego Boyo or Emem Isong are also a delight to watch. I appreciate the fact that there are some very talented actors like Mercy Johnson who can excel if given opportunity to work with brilliant directors. There are some other decent actors, directors and producers I may have failed to mention, I will appreciate your recommending them in the comments section. I highlighted the ones above to show that there are people we associate with high standards in Nollywood – people who make effort to produce quality movies in an industry that prefers quantity ( We are still waiting for Half of a Yellow Sun. The Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board has continued to delay its release). I don’t mean to dis smaller producers who work on very small budgets and only produce movies to make a living. But there’s also nothing wrong in acknowledging people whose efforts and works have stood out.

On the Genevieve saga, honestly, I don’t see a demon between any of the two sides. Even if the words were Genevieve’s, she said a glaring truth and so shouldn’t be hounded by the press for it. If the words weren’t hers (and she has said they are not), I still won’t fault Punch so much. It could just be a case of a sophisticated writer trying to present more elegantly the thoughts of her interviewee. I have pointed out earlier that that wasn’t a very professional and responsible thing to do. It is unfortunate that a quote taken out of context has clouded and taken away from the purpose of the interview which was to highlight Genevieve’s charity , St Genevieve Foundation, and her recent endorsement with Etisalat.

There are things we can learn from this – the need to be more careful when we say what we think we heard; When we are the object of a rumor, to give benefit of the doubt to the monger as they may not be ill-intentioned. We can also learn to communicate better with people around us. I have lost count of how many times I had been upset with someone only to realize subsequently that it was a pure case of misunderstanding and poor communication. I guess you have had the same experience.

It’s serendipitous that before I came across the headline on Genevieve, I had written but not published a blog on how to manage rumors. Do find time to read it here. It’s short but edifying.

Are there outstanding Nollywood players you love who I didn’t mention? Please let us know in the comments section. Who knows who will be watching them next?

UPDATE: Just got the news today July 5, 2014 that the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board has finally approved the release of Half of a Yellow Sun. The release date is yet to be announced. Who will be watching?

‘Hush….’: An Excerpt from a Priceless Book

Embed from Getty Images

When I was in secondary school, I had a teacher whom I thought was irreligious (just indifferent to it but not to the point of profanity). My perception of him, stemmed from his actions, was that he was one of those people who were naturally good and would irrespective of their religious convictions be decent people. During one of his classes, he told us that even if one didn’t read the bible for religious reasons, they should because of the wisdom it contained. He was right about how much one can learn from the holy book.

Below is an excerpt, word to word, from one of my favorite books in the bible. If you are like me, you will get a little attack of conscience while reading it. But we shouldn’t worry. What matters is what guidance we allow it to provide in our future utterances.

‘Avoid idle talk, and you will avoid a lot of trouble.

Never repeat what you hear, and you will have no regrets.

Don’t tell it to your friends or your enemies unless it would be sinful to keep it to yourself.

Whoever hears you will take note of it, and sooner or later will hate you for it.

Have you heard a rumor? Let it die with you. Be brave! It won’t make you explode.
A foolish person trying to keep a secret suffers like a woman in labor.
Any time he hears a secret, it’s like an arrow stuck in his leg.

If you hear that a friend has done something wrong, ask him about it. Maybe it isn’t true. If it is true, he won’t do it again.

If you hear that a neighbor has said something he shouldn’t, ask him about it. Maybe he didn’t say it. If he did, he won’t say it again.

If you hear something bad about a friend, ask him about it. It might be a lie. Don’t believe everything you hear.

A person may say something carelessly and not really mean it. Everyone has sinned in this way at one time or another.If you hear something that makes you angry with your neighbor, ask him about it before you threaten him. Leave the matter to the Law of the Most High.’

Back to my teacher; years after I left secondary, I ran into him at the Catholic cathedral in my town, the same one I went to secondary school. I told him how surprised I was to find him there and what I used to think of him. He didn’t give me a time-out. There was a stunned expression on his face. I guess he was religious after all.

Can you guess from which book of the bible the excerpt came?

In Defence of ‘Ms’ Chimamanda ‘Adichie’: A Look at Our Obsession with Titles in Nigeria

Someone I consider a literary mentor and friend who knows how much I love Chimamanda Adichie asked me sometime ago why Adichie doesn’t have a child yet. I should know because I google her every two or three days to see what article she has written for a newspaper, what talk she is giving next or what book she is working on. I should know why she hasn’t had a child as is expected of every married Nigerian woman. I told my mentor friend (I will call her Ada) that Adichie probably doesn’t want to have one yet, that she knows how much dedication is required to raise children, that perhaps the internationally acclaimed author wasn’t ready to make her schedule any busier than it was – shuttling between two continents, sometimes more, giving lectures, organizing workshops, lecturing University students and promoting books and film adaptations were demanding enough . Ada reminded me that Adichie’s biological clock was ticking. I countered that her career was at its peak and needed little distraction at this time. At the end of our conversation, one of us mentioned and the other agreed that she was probably trying without any success. We concluded that may be that would be the subject of her next book. I know, that’s us, Nigerians, carrying other people’s perceived problems like they are ours (in Nigeria-speak, drinking panadol for other people’s headache) and suggesting what they should write next. In retrospect, it was preposterous that I inferred that she didn’t have a child merely because I hadn’t seen it in the news. I know someone of whom similar assumption was erroneously made because she didn’t announce the birth of her child on Facebook – Facebook which has become the unofficial and universal record keeper of births, deaths and marriages.

About a month ago, Adichie came up again in my conversation with Ada. This time, she sounded more concerned: ‘Are you aware she doesn’t want to be addressed as a Mrs?’ I wasn’t aware and as someone who follows her on Facebook and elsewhere, I was surprised I missed it. After my phone conversation with Ada, I went on the internet to read the details of my favorite author’s latest ‘crime’ – her other ‘crime’: suggesting that given all our problems, criminalizing gay and gay-related activities shouldn’t be a priority for Nigeria.

Miss, Ms or Mrs

A reporter had started an interview by addressing Adichie as ‘Mrs Chimamanda Adichie’. Since she isn’t married to an Adichie, my view is that she should be addressed either as Ms Chimamanda Adichie or Mrs Chimamanda Esege ( She is married to Ivara Esege pictured above with her). Although the rules are recently being relaxed, traditionally, Mrs goes with a woman’s married name, Miss with her maiden name and Ms being a generic title for a woman, married or unmarried, can precede a maiden name or married name. Maybe if the interviewer had used the title appropriately, Adichie would have protested less. Although some sources reported that she said to be addressed as ‘Miss’, I doubt that is true. The reports must have stemmed from the similarity in the pronunciation of ‘Ms’/ˈmɪz/ and ‘Miss’\ˈmis\. Given how knowledgeable Adichie is in the use of English language, I doubt she could have mixed up the two.

Adichie’s insistence on not being addressed as a ‘Mrs’ may also have been motivated by her desire to downplay the importance we attach to it in Nigeria. She once told of how a successful but single woman would put on wedding bands to business conferences; her reason: to earn the respect of her fellow attendees. There was also the woman who sold her house to attract suitors who would otherwise see her as out of reach and too much headache. It is unfortunate that in Nigeria, we still see marriage as something that accords higher status to a woman. However accomplished a woman is, there is this pressure to be under a man’s roof even if it means giving up an aluminum roof for a leaking thatched roof. By not making her marriage a public affair, Adichie reinforces the need for women to be judged by their own accomplishments and nothing else.

Maiden Name: To Change or Not to Change

Adichie’s revelation in the interview that she hadn’t changed her name to her husband’s last name also drew criticism from people who thought it inappropriate – people who have never met her or know what loving relationship founded on mutual respect she enjoys with her spouse.

When I was in the university, one of my classmates who got married while in school was advised by one of my professors to put off changing her name till her graduation so that her maiden name will be on her Law degree certificate. My professor thought it was an honor (and I agree with him)to her birth family? Isn’t Chimamanda’s decision to keep her maiden name an honor to her aged father, James Adichie, who each time he mentions his name would naturally be asked if he is related to the author? Would he enjoy this honor if chimamanda had a different surname? Should the pride he takes in answering ‘Yes, I am her father’ be taken away because this particular child that has brought him honor is a woman? Should a choice that honors one of two equally deserving families be condemned? Perhaps the fact that a woman is made to throw away her maiden name upon marriage is the reason female children are less desirable in Nigeria than male children. Women cannot perpetuate the family name.

Some people argue (and reasonably so) that if a man is not required to change his name upon marriage, there should be no pressure on a woman to change hers especially when she has worked so hard to build her name as a brand that sells. Should those of us who changed our maiden names before establishing our careers judge women whose careers took off before their marriage because of their reluctance to change to their married name? Is it possible that not everyone can easily deal with the inconvenience that comes with a name change including making newspaper publication (in Nigeria); changing passports, drivers license and social security cards; notifying financial institutions and employers; making modifications to social media accounts and explaining the discrepancy in the names on credentials every time? But for her unique first name, will Chimamanda Esege be as recognizable as Chimamanda Adichie? I know a very popular female author who has been divorced four times ( I wish it weren’t that common). Could she have retained her brand name and fan base if she had changed her name each time (nine times) to reflect every change in her marital status? If Adichie’s husband is okay, and obviously he is, with her wife retaining her maiden name, should it be anybody else’s business? I am just saying: different strokes for different folks. I changed my name when I got married and I am very happy with my decision because I know the inherent benefits. Adichie has made hers and we ought to respect that.

And There are all Those Titles…

Since reading a novel by either Chukwuemeka Ike or Ifeoma Okoye (it has been a long time, both authors are amazing in their ability to subtly pass on moral lessons without coming off as preachy.) that caricatured our abuse of titles in Nigeria, I have developed a preference to be called simply by my name. In the novel there was even an ‘Accountant’ Chigo as you would have in Dr Chigo. In Nigeria, addressing a physician, an attorney, a Catholic knight or a local Chief without the appropriate title is deemed disrespectful. An introduction of a Chief Dr Sir Okeke Okafor in a fundraising event is an indication that a generous donation is expected. An omission of any of the titles will most likely result in a reduction of the intended sum given on ‘behalf of me, myself and my wife’.

While I understand that some titles are given as a reverence to people who hold certain positions in established institutions, many of them are superfluous. While I cannot imagine addressing a catholic priest by his first name without preceding it with a ‘Father’, and I cannot imagine calling a High Court judge anything but ‘My Lord’ ( I used to have reservations about that too. Isn’t God the only Lord), I don’t feel obliged to address as a ‘Dr’ a rich man who literally acquired a ‘Doctor’ title with his wealth.

That said, I admire the Ibo culture that teaches children to call their elders De, Ndaa, Sister, Aunty, etc. Calling someone that seem to automatically instill in the child the idea that this Aunty, De etc deserves his respect.

After all is said and done, the question from Shakespeare remains: ‘What is in a name?’ We should, like a rose which would smell sweet irrespective of what it is called, do all the good we can to as many people as we can; that trumps any name and sound more highly than any title we are called, earned or unearned.

PS: Regarding the title of this blog, Adichie doesn’t need any defending. With her eloquence, I doubt she would ever have need of an attorney to explain the motivations for her actions.
I couldn’t verify the title of the book with an ‘Accountant chigo’. Google didn’t help me this time. I guess we need to do more to archive at least the description of some of the wonderful books written by Nigerian authors before the internet age. I think it is Men Without Ears by Ifeoma Okoye, am not sure.