These Nigerian Celebrities Prove that Unrelaxed Black Hair is “New School”

chioma akpotha

Before the dawn of 21st century, afro-textured hair was unpopular. In Nigeria, it was associated, in a derogatory manner, with Deeper Life Christians. But in recent time, the trend which was once seen as unsophisticated is now popular among elites. A hair type which once characterized women deemed not well-versed in the ways of the world is now worn by the most knowledgeable.

According to Wikipedia, “going natural,” is now so popular that hair care suppliers have seen a rapid decrease in the purchase of relaxers, the chemical hair straightener. An industry that was once worth an estimated $774 million in relaxer sales have gone down 26% over the last five years, says a 2013 numbers report. Sales are estimated to decrease to 45% by 2019. Brands are lowering their production of relaxers and instead are producing more natural-friendly products.

Bringing it close to home, I present to you ten (or twelve, depending on how you count it) influential Nigerians who are leading the Natural hair movement.

1. Chimamanda Adichie
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I her 2013 novel, Americanah, Chimamanda made a case for accepting black women’s hair the way it grows from their scalp. Walking her talk, Chimamanda now rocks her hair in stylish natural ways.

Here’s what Adichie has to say about natural hair:

“Many of us say our natural hair is too hard, too difficult. But that’s because we weren’t taught how to care for our hair. I have discovered the wonders of coconut, castor, shea, even honey for softening hair. Trick is add it when your hair is wet! You get wonderful softness!

Relaxers are not about softness. They are really about texture. Otherwise there are ways to soften hair without permanently changing the texture of hair.”

2. Genevieve Nnaji
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Genevieve Nnaji is perhaps Nigeria’s most influential actress. With over two million Instagram followers, her influence is widely felt when she sets or associates with a trend. While I didn’t find any statement regarding natural her attributed to the the rather reticent actress, popular Nigeria blogs, including Bellanaija have carried numerous headlines of Nnajis’ transition to natural hair.

3. Kate Henshaw
kate

If you consider that it’s been twenty-three years since When the Sun Set, Kate’s first movie, you will realize that this Nollywood beauty is aging gracefully, not that she’s too old at 45.

Besides sharing her fitness routine with her Instagram followers, the beauty also discusses her natural hair journey on her page. In a recent post she wrote: “We are all different. Genes and all. We all will not have thick, long hair.. some are soft and curly, some are wiry and coarse. The important thing is to maintain good hair routines that will keep your hair healthy.”

4. Dakore Egbuson
dakore

Long before her colleagues joined the natural hair trend, Dakore Egbuson wore dreadlocks– a hair style that made her unusually visible in the industry. Although the gorgeous mother of two cut her dreadlocks a few years ago, she still wears her natural hair.

She had this to say about cutting her locks: “I made up my mind that I wanted to wear dreadlocks, and when I was tired of it, I decided to cut it. My husband did not want me to cut my hair; he wanted our children to meet me with the hair. I dance to the beat of my own drum and my path is different from every other person’s. I have my own mind; if I let people shape my opinions of myself, I will not be authentic to myself.”

She deserves credit for seeing the beauty in natural hair long before the rest of us started appreciating it.

5. Chioma Chukwuka Akpotha
chioma akpotha

Chioma Chukwuka Akpotha, the Nigerian actress with the girl-next-door disposition, started her natural hair journey in 2014.

Pictured above (middle) with her Wives on Strike colleagues (Uche Jombo, left and Omoni Oboli, right, who also happen to be naturalistas), the actress wrote about her natural hair journey in her Instagram page some days ago thus:

“@YellowSisi got me gushing all over my hair yesterday , all day! Her “special” touch makes you wonder how she really does it! For anything that has to do natural hair @yellowsisi is there for you. Follow her and you’d be glad you did. For my not so secret to my healthy hair, stay tuned for a post on the products I have used from when I transitioned till this point!. #naturalhair #TeamNatural”

In another post a week earlier, the Early Marriage actress wrote about how she almost gave up midway into the journey: “I’ve been feeling good about my hair all day. It’s been quite some journey from Dec’14 . I did a not so big chop in December 2014 and started the perm to natural transition. It was hard and quite tiresome. I almost gave up especially when it was difficult to comb when the new growth started coming in March 2015.

Now when I look back I’m so glad I didn’t give up! I absolutely love my hair. So with 1 year and 4months on, I believe I can fly.Once you set your mind on something and don’t give up, with time you’d get there gradually.” #NaturalHair #Naturalista”

@YellowSisi, The Instagram user she gave a shout out to also has Kate Henshaw as a client. No doubt, she seems to know her onions.

6. Nse Ikpe Etim

nse ikep etim

I fell in love with Nse Ikpe Etim the first time I saw her on screen. The banker-turned-actress in one of the most influential Nigerian natural hair promoters. She had this to say about her natural hair:

“I don’t wear dreadlocks, it is just my natural hair that you are seeing. I twist it and loose it when I choose to. I do not fix a weave-on because it is artificial. I carry my hair most of the time, except when I have to attach something else to it. If I am playing a role in a home video film, I wear another hairstyle.”

As I can’t miss an opportunity to emphasize the need to follow one’s passion, here’s what Nse said about quitting her banking job for acting:

“I don’t think I remember the year I quit banking. But when I decided it was not longer what I wanted to do I had to leave. I was doing the same thing everyday. I was not passionate about it and I think if you want to earn a living, you should be passionate about what you do.”

She is inspiring in so many ways.

7. Sisiyemmie

Sisi-Yemmie-Bn-Fro-Friday-July-2016-BellaNaija0025

By now, you know how much I love Sisiyemmie. I listed her in my favorite people on the web here.

In an interview with Bellanaija the beautiful blogger who wore her natural her even for her wedding said she will never go back to relaxing her hair.

When asked what she loved most about natural hair, she said: “I love how versatile natural hair can be, I can have it straight today if I want and get it kinky tomorrow. I also love how thick it has become, well, thicker than when I was relaxed. There is a certain look you have when you’re rocking well styled natural hair-you look healthy!”

If you haven’t checked her out, please check her website here. I haven’t missed an episode of her more than now 50 weekly vlogs!

8. Yagazie Emezi

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Yagazie was also among the people I listed as one of my favorite people in the web. The young Nigeria who combines photography with art has an unusually long natural hair because of her Malaysian gene which she inherited from her mother.

Speaking on natural hair, Yagazie said in this clip : “Good hair all has to do with hair care, good hair has to do with how you take care of your hair regardless of whatever hairstyle you have on or what length your hair is…It doesn’t always mean that because you have long hair that you have healthy hair.”

Given how gorgeous Yagazie’s hair is, she’s definitely one to take hair advice from.

9. Eki Ogunbor

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Eki joined BellaNaija team this year and she has become a favorite of many even landing an endorsement with a luxury homeware company.

About her natural hair journey she said, “I transitioned for 6 months but I did the big chop after. I did this because I wanted to get a feel of my hair texture before committing to the journey and I did the big chop because I really wanted to see what I’d look like with really short hair. My family was really shocked when I cut off all my hair, others were really angry because I had long relaxed hair.”

About her hair routine she wrote, “I always have one protective style or the other which I get done at O’Naturals natural hair salon and they take good care of my hair there because I don’t always have time to do it myself. They also advice on the hair care routine that’s best for the style I have on and how to prolong it’s neatness till my next visit. Between protective styles, I wash and deep condition with different products like the Carol’s Daughter Black Vanilla range, the Cantu Shea Butter range especially the co-wash shampoo and Herbal Essences Hello Hydration range. I also use a lot of Coconut Oil (hair and scalp), Castor Oil (mostly scalp) and Shea Butter (hair, to seal in moisture).”

Eki is definitely one to look out for.

10. Adanna Ohakim

Adanna o

I saved the best for last. Adanna doesn’t just rock natural hair, she teaches others how to take care of it. I’m wearing a kinky twist I braided myself. Thanks to Adanna and her many tips.

Seeing these pictures may inspire you to consider transitioning. When you decide. here’s a list that contains natural hair salons and beauty shops in several cities in Nigeria.

If you are in Lagos, I think O’Naturals is a good place to go. People recommend it.

So what are your thoughts?

P.S If you are a hair dresser who works with natural hair, please write your contact in the comments section so people will find you. Black hair rocks!

WANT TO GIVE SPEECHES AS POWERFUL AS MICHELLE OBAMA’S? HERE ARE FIVE TIPS TO GET YOU STARTED

On Monday night, First Lady Michelle Obama gave a rousing speech that is still making headlines today. Compare this with the reaction last week when Melania Trump gave hers. Even before the crowd at the convention center learned that Melania plagiarized Ms. Obama’s speech, half of them were so uninspired by her speech that they left the arena shortly after her speech, midway into the Republican National Convention.

I too was uninspired. I thought that Melania’s speech was not as captivating as Michelle Obama’s was in 2012. So minutes after listening to her speech, I went on social media to see who else shared my sentiments. It didn’t take long to find one. A Facebook friend, a colleague, pointed out how Melania’s speech paled in comparison to Michelle’s. I argued that Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Barack and Michelle Obama make eloquent speakers probably because of their profession as lawyers. My friend responded that lawyers are only trained in the act of advocacy, not oratory. Later, in a private moment, I googled Websters–To advocate:to speak or write in favor of; support or urge by argument; recommend publicly. My friend and I had this discussion last week. Since then, Bill Clinton, and Barack and Michelle Obama have given speeches this week that finished to resounding applause.

What makes a good speech? Instead of using her Monday or even 2012 convention speech, I looked online for Michelle’s 2008 Convention speech, her first as an aspiring first lady, just like Melania. I compared the first nine paragraph of Ms. Obama’s 2008 speech with Melania’s. What I found confirmed what I’ve always known: that techniques for effective advocacy can be learned. Here are five tips to help you in making your case–tips that have helped me in my job as an advocate.

1. Start with a story, a quote or a proposition
Your audience decides if you are worth listening to within few minutes of your speech. Captivate them with a story, a quote, a question or a proposition before you lose them. If you look back to memorable sermons from your childhood, you will find that you remember the sermon because of a story, a quote or something new you learned. Each of these makes a promise of something more to come thus making an audience eager to hear more.

Quotes are memorable because they capture in few words an idea that can take pages to convey. For example, a cousin lost her husband recently. I have been struggling with that loss for weeks. Last week, someone posted a picture of the widow and her children in mourning clothes and captioned it: “What cannot be avoided has to be endured.” That quote is one I’m not likely to forget.

A proposition states a theory to be analyzed. So if you start a speech by saying, for instance, “Diabetes is now an epidemic.” You are likely to engage an audience eager to find out what statistics, studies, etc. you are relying on to make that assertion.

When you start a speech by asking a question calling for your audience’s responses, you get the audience involved right away as they will naturally get busy figuring the answer to the question. Once you get them in, it will be harder to lose them.

Stories are my favorite for starting a speech. Here are the first three paragraphs from Michelle’s 2008 and Melania’s 2016 speech.

Michelle’s:
“As you might imagine, for Barack, running for president is nothing compared to that first game of basketball with my brother, Craig.

I can’t tell you how much it means to have Craig and my mom here tonight. Like Craig, I can feel my dad looking down on us, just as I’ve felt his presence in every grace-filled moment of my life.

At 6-foot-6, I’ve often felt like Craig was looking down on me too … literally. But the truth is, both when we were kids and today, he wasn’t looking down on me. He was watching over me.”

Melania’s:
“It’s a very nice welcome and we’re excited to be with you at this historic convention.

I am so proud of your choice for President of the United States, my husband, Donald J. Trump.

And I can assure you, he is moved by this great honor.”

You can tell which of the two is more compelling. With Michelle’s, you are eager to hear more, wondering what Craig has to got to do with Obama winning the presidency. With Melanie’s, you will readily notice that she is stating the obvious, nothing exciting to make you eager to hear more.

2. Show Don’t Tell
Creative writers know that showing and telling is the difference between a good read and an uninteresting one. If you are writing a tribute for a parent for example, telling us that he was the best father and husband anybody could have prayed for is telling us nothing. Every grieving child says that. How about if you tell us that when you were a child, the day your mother went into labor to give birth to your (now) youngest sibling, your father took your mum to the hospital, came home, fed and tucked you and your younger sibling in bed all the while fingering his rosary, praying for your mother whom he couldn’t be with because your parents couldn’t afford a babysitter at the time.

While Melania generally talked about Trump’s love for America without telling us why she came to that conclusion, Michelle, in her 2008 speech, gave concrete examples of Obama’s love for America thus:

“It’s what he did all those years ago, on the streets of Chicago, setting up job training to get people back to work and after-school programs to keep kids safe — working block by block to help people lift up their families.

It’s what he did in the Illinois Senate, moving people from welfare to jobs, passing tax cuts for hard-working families, and making sure women get equal pay for equal work.

It’s what he’s done in the United States Senate, fighting to ensure the men and women who serve this country are welcomed home not just with medals and parades but with good jobs and benefits and health care — including mental health care.”

3. Concede Points to Your Opponent
An audience can tell when one is making an objective argument and when arguments are based on sentiments. When you want to make a case, being objective and presenting arguments in favor of the other side shows you have done your research. It shows yes, you get the other position, but having considered it, you feel your position is a better one.

Once, in a case we tried, an opposing counsel filed a motion with the court requesting attorney fees for over$80,000. This, when the case hadn’t ended as to all parties. Among other arguments we made opposing the motion, we admitted that the dismissed party was in fact entitled to attorney fees, but for less than $3,000. We however requested the court to deny the attorney fees entirely on account of the attorney’s greed in requesting so much when he was entitled to so little. The court ruled the motion in our favor based on this argument. Our conceding that the attorney is entitled to something made us sound fair and it was easy for the judge to agree with us.

Let’s also take Nigerian elections, for example. During the campaigns, Buhari’s supporters that argued that Jonathan may be a decent man but that he was too gentle for Nigeria etc. scored more points in my book than people who simply dismissed Jonathan as corrupt. With his personality, anybody can buy the first argument about the former president but not necessarily the latter argument.

4. Don’t Call Names
Similar to the previous argument, making condescending arguments against your opponent reflects poorly on you than it does on them. In Michelle’s Monday speech, he subtly discredited Trump without once mentioning his name. She merely argued the issues. Her proposition that America needs “someone who understands that the issues a president faces are not black and white and cannot be boiled down to 140 characters” was a subtle reference to Trump’s penchant for tweeting. Also her saying “So don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great, that somehow we need to make it great again” was in obvious reference to Trump whose campaign slogan is “Make America great again.” Yet when Trump was asked about Michelle’s speech, he said that Ms. Obama did an excellent job. Yes, Trump said so. So argue the issues. Don’t attack people.

I learned how important it is to avoid name-calling in law school when we were thought never to commit Fallacy Ad Hominem, i.e, attacking your opponent’s character or personal traits in an attempt to undermine their argument. Yet, in my practice as a lawyer, I made that mistake once and I lost a motion. In other two cases where opposing counsels said not so nice things about me or my firm, they lost the motions too.

When one takes such cheap shot, the arbiter may conclude that the maker have no better argument to make or punish them for being so contemptuous. Anybody can call names; people are convinced more when you back up your arguments with facts. So instead of, for example, calling Buhari a dictator, go straight to the argument and give an example of how he made an executive order without consulting the National Assembly. That will make you sound intelligent and informed, giving you credibility.

5. Get a Law Degree
To advocate means to speak, plead, or argue in favor of. That is what you do each time you try to sell an idea. Lawyers are trained to be advocates. 25 of the 44 U.S. presidents have been attorneys. Need I say more?

Anne Mmeje is a lawyer licensed in Nigeria and California. She is also a freelance writer. To contact her email annemmeje@yahoo.com

Meet Chika Ugonwa, Lagos Immigration Lawyer and Entrepreneur

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Chika

Editor’s Note:In Nigeria, it is not often that you hear of a young lawyer whose clients don’t mind having her flight tickets included in their bills. Such privileges are accorded only Senior Advocates and highly experienced attorneys. But because of her specialized area of practice and her dedication to her clients, Chika Ugonwa, a young lawyer in her early thirties, is so sought-after that her practice takes her around the country. Chika (whose vision includes to establish a firm that will serve as a one stop shop for everything Travelling/Immigration inquiry and assistance in Nigeria; to establish bilateral relation with immigration firms all over the world, Embassies and High Commissions; and to build a strong brand on the foundation of Trust and Integrity) granted us this interview discussing her work as an Immigration Lawyer, the epidemic of human trafficking in Nigeria, and why she think laws protecting only women are unnecessary. She also expressed her desire to help women who are marginalized, pro bono. In her down time, Chika writes poems with such great rhymes you will want to give her some dimes. I hope Chika’s extraordinary courage and hard work inspires you, like it inspired me.

We are excited to do this interview with you. Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
Thanks for having me. My name is Chika Ugonwa. I am a Lawyer, a Graduate Manager, an Immigration Consultant and an Entrepreneur. In the past I worked with Abubakar Mustapha & Co. (Kaduna) and Threshold Barrister & Solicitors (Lagos). Presently, I am running my own firm Tnencucc Consulting in partnership with Reality Education Ltd (Port Harcourt), Rexcue Barrister and Solicitors (Lagos), and New Dimension Konsult (Kaduna).

Okay, now that sounds interesting. You are affiliated with three firms. What’s the arrangement like?
I started my Immigration Law practice in Lagos with Threshold Immigration Consult which is a subsidiary of Threshold Barristers & Solicitors. As you know, Legal practice is built on trust and in the course of the attorney-client relationship, one has access to client’s sensitive private and financial information. So when I moved to Abuja, a lot of my Lagos clients still sought me. My efforts to get them to work with other lawyers failed. That was where the partnership idea came from. After some attempts at trying to work with my clients in Lagos from Abuja, I realized that I could successfully serve clients anywhere.

For my clients who are based in Lagos for instance, they consult me through the phone or email. Then I do their work and send the finished work to my colleague (Rexcue Barrister and Solicitors Lagos), who ensures my clients properly endorse their documents. For some VIP clients who can afford to fly me to their location, I also go to them to finalize and prep them for Interview.

Overtime, through referrals, my clientèle grew; some clients trust whoever referred them enough to release personal information and pay professional fees without seeing me. Others don’t mind the cost to get a one-on-one meeting with me. When they can afford it, they come to me or if the fee is right I go to them using any of my partners’ office as a meeting point.

Congratulations on your achievements so far. Has law practice been what you expected? Many people go into law school with great ideas. Did the reality of law practice match your earlier expectations of what to expect from the practice of Law?
I don’t know about ‘many people.’ For me, I did not really go into the law program with great expectations or any expectations. The decision to study law was suggested by someone I could never say No to. In secondary school I was good in social sciences and art, my parents wanted me to be an accountant; my grandfather wanted Law. I chose Law. In University my goal was not to fail my grandfather, my parents who were paying for my education and myself. (In my family, my siblings and I are a bit competitive). Long story short: I did not have ‘earlier expectations.’ But having practiced for a while I expect so much more from colleagues, the Bar, the bench, and our legislators (our legislators are surrounded by lawyers, bills are drafted by lawyers so lawyers should be blamed for ALL the faults in our laws). The socio-economic fate of this country to a large extent lies with the legal profession and so it suffices to say we are to a large extent part of the problem of the country. We need strict ethics and conduct regulations.

What has been your greatest challenge practicing law in Nigeria?
Law practice is a very broad concept. The challenges a lawyer encounters are unique to his/her area of practice. My areas are Maritime, Civil, Family, Company and Immigration law practice. I can write a book on the challenges for each but for this interview I will only mention one challenge in Maritime practice which is ‘stagnancy’.

My former firm (Threshold barristers & Solicitors) had over 30 cases on different maritime matters. Apart from one of the matters that I got a default Judgement on, others ended up in settlement before I got the chance to taste my skills in trial. In court one day while I was moving yet another motion for discontinuance and adoption of parties’ terms of settlement, the Judge said (jokingly) that in his 20 years in the bench he was yet to deliver a final Judgement on a Maritime case.

In Maritime, litigation is instituted just to get the shippers/and or the insurance company to settle. Hence in rare cases where the matter goes all the way to trial, there are hardly sufficient judicial precedents to rely on.

But one may consider the cases settling a good thing, seeing how we are now advocating for alternative means of resolving disputes which reduces the stress and hostility associated with litigation. However, I can see how lack of precedence in case law is a disadvantage for the Maritime cases that do make it to trial. Of all the areas of law you mentioned you practice, which do you practice more?
I practice Immigration Law more. Thanks to Nigeria legal system, a lawyer in Nigeria can practice in any part of Nigeria. My Job takes me around the Country (and I hope someday beyond) and we attend to clients at any location within Nigeria.


Are you surprised at how little or much your clients know about Immigration law?

Not at all; Immigration law practice is still a grey area of practice. I was fortunate to stumble into it myself. Its sounds alien when I discuss it with my colleagues. Apart from a few firms in Lagos I am not sure there are firms in other jurisdictions who engage in it. Imagine how many countries there are and the entry demands for those countries. Through this job, I have learned a lot and I am still learning.

Most people are not even aware of the need to consult a lawyer until it’s a bit late. Some clients come to us with terrible immigration record. There are cases of applicants with over ten refusal stamps in their passports. These are eligible applicants seeking entry for genuine purposes (e.g business, study, medical etc). Their applications are refused repeatedly because of poor or improper documentation. It’s sad considering that application fees are non refundable. A particular client who came to us after he had been refused over and over again only found out after he consulted us that he was serving a ten-year ban as a result of some forged documents an ‘agent’ used in his first application. His refusal letter always stated “refused under para.360H.” I had to explain to him that any refusal under S.360 attracts a ten-year ban. While we do our best to fix some, there are some cases, like the applicant serving a ten-year ban, we can’t fix.

Years ago, anyone in Nigeria could have multiple passports with different identities on each although it is illegal. However, that is no longer practicable in this era of E-passport and bio-metrics. It has now become imperative for people to consult an immigration lawyer first before applying for any visa.

Many Nigerians do not know that some lawyers specialize in Immigration Law practice. For their benefit, please what does a Nigerian Immigration Lawyer do?
You are right. And not a lot of people know that traveling across border is actually a right not a privilege. Let me not bore your readers with sections of UN Treaties and African Charters on Human right and other citations that uphold these rights.

In summary; A country cannot close its borders from entry to members of other territories. There are exceptions though.

We attend to Immigration issues bothering on;
Permanent migrants i.e spouses, children, parents etc. who seeks to join families overseas across border or regularize foreigners already in the country. Temporary Migrants which includes International Students, Work permits (eg. Canada Federal Skill migrant scheme, for professional migrants) etc. My firm is also an International Education facilitator. We work with schools in Europe, United States, Canada, Australia, Malaysia etc. Then we have our cluster clientele: the short time Visitors. Tourist, family visitors, Medicals Visitors etc.

It is quite an interesting job. You will be amazed at the volume of immigration cases there are out there.

In addition to the above, we also organize trainings and seminars. News are often reported about mangled dead bodies found in international flights tyre compartments, like the stories here: http://www.nairaland.com/432392/desperate-man-sneaks-into-delta, http://old.nationaldailyng.com/news/crime/5988-arik-dead-body-uk-authorities-may-join-investigation. Some lose their lives at Sahara Desert or at sea, in desperate attempt to illegally migrate in quest for greener pastures. In the later instance, loved ones are saddled with the agony of not knowing for sure what happened to their wards–pain they will be forced to endure to their graves. Those who promote these inhuman practices for profit will never inform their clients of the risks involved. Through these seminars we educate the youths on the dangers of illegal migration, we warn them against patronising fraudsters who will promise them 1st world countries Visas just to reap them and they families off huge sums of money. We also create awareness on human trafficking.

I am truly amazed at your accomplishments. Chika Unaigwe’s novel On Black Sisters’ Street is an eye-opener on human trafficking in Nigeria and prostitution by Nigerians abroad. I am happy you are part of the group making efforts to stop this inhuman act. So in concrete terms, what type of services do you render to your clients?

1. We offer professional advisory services. Information is very important, especially since countries keep reviewing their immigration rules and regulations to protect their borders against economic migrants and terrorists. It is our duty to advise based on the prevailing rules and regulations. We also advise clients on their eligibility status.
2. We give packaging assistance; a lot of immigration process / application is done online and not many people know their way around the internet nor have the patience to be bothered with it, and the question may be a bit technical, so we do the actual application for clients who retain us to do so.
3. We also represent clients on appeals (via paper litigation) for clients who have been wrongfully refused. We prepare ground of appeal, witness statement(s) etc.
4. Further, we offer International Investors legal assistance through our partnership with other law firms abroad. We can help a client secure an investment abroad, or a foreigner secure investments here (Nigeria).

What is the most fulfilling case you have ever handled?
As a rule, I do not take on any case I am not passionate about. It is my passion that propels me to give my best. In my immigration practice however, one particular case comes to mind though. Client was a 17-year old boy at that time. He lost his mother at a young age. His mother was never married to his father. He was raised by his maternal grandmother who also later became deceased. His father was a Nigerian / Belgian permanently resident in Belgium. He wanted the client to join him. There were a lot of documentary challenges. Initially it looked like a hopeless case. The client, young and without assistance (other than professional fee his father paid to the firm), did all his best to assemble necessary documentation. He made several trips from Edo (where he was living at the time) to our firm in Lagos. The package took about 6 months to tidy up and another 6 months in the embassy. I was gearing up for appeals when the documents came out and his application was granted. This case was fulfilling for me because in the course of packaging the client’s application, I got to learn of his life story. He’d had a difficult life and I felt that he deserved a break. I was very happy he got his visa. He is doing very well in Belgium now.

I share your joy. I do find too that the cases we tend to love the most are not the ones we made most money from but the ones we helped our clients get life-changing results. Given your diverse practice, have you noticed any dissimilarity between Immigration Law and other areas of law practice?
Yes there are, for instance, one of the popular principles in law is that a person is ‘innocent until proven guilty’. In Immigration law the reverse is the case. In Immigration Law, it is an applicant’s duty to prove that his/her purpose is genuine before his/her request is granted. In other words, you are considered an Economic Migrant (especially if you are applying from an undeveloped country to a developed country) until evidence proves otherwise.

Another difference is that Immigration law is not guided by Precedence. Even where two clients have the same immigration challenges, solutions are rarely the same. Every application is unique to the applicant’s personal and economic circumstances.

Lagos State government recently uploaded the State Laws on the internet but requires people to make a certain payment before accessing them. What is your take on this? Shouldn’t people know, say the Criminal Code, without having to buy them, in order not to break the law.
I have always been of the opinion that basic laws (criminal law and fundamental human rights) should be introduced as subjects is senior secondary schools and that such laws be also made available to the masses especially since ignorance of the law is not a defence in law. Take this yahoo yahoo thing for example, a lot of youths who engage in it do it for the fun of it as much as for the money. They are ignorant of the fact that they are committing a felony nor the penalty it attracts. But the Government as usual is focused on generating revenue at the expense of the masses’ welfare.

The National Assembly did not pass the gender equality bill that was presented before it earlier this year. What effect do you think passing this law would have had on women’s right?
I have not read the bill though but I do not think it will have any substantive effect on women’s right. I am not aware of any law(in my jurisdiction) that is specifically discriminatory against women. The constitution provided for Fundamental HUMAN rights. The Criminal Code did not segregate crimes or penalties on gender. I am indifferent to the bill just like I am indifferent to the bill on domestic violence (when the criminal code has amply provided laws against physical and non-physical violence). I am indifferent to these laws and bills focusing on women simply because I think they amount to proliferation of laws. If we women are serious about our rights, we should stop expecting special treatment. It is our constitutionally giving right to challenge any law or practice that we feel is discriminatory towards us on basis of gender. Any woman who seeks to challenge such laws or practice will have my support pro bono.

So if someone wants to apply for visitors’ visa to U.S. are you able to do that?
Yes. Like I said the bulk of our clients falls in the Visitors (short term travellers) category. We also serve clients who wish to travel to Canada, Australia, Europe etc .

Where can people get information and resources about Maritime Laws and Immigration Laws in Nigeria?
There are plethora of books and legislations on Maritime: NIMASA ACT 2007, Sabotage Act etc. For Immigration law, there is the Immigration Act but general rule , it is the Immigration rules and regulation of the country a client is seeking entry to that is relied on.

You practice Maritime law. What is the relationship between depreciation of the Naira and Importation?
The Naira depreciation is as a result of Nigeria’s heavy reliance on importation. Nigeria imports almost everything. If importation reduces, the Naira will appreciate.

Thank you, Chika. I enjoyed this interview and I learned quite a lot, and I’m sure our readers will too.
You are most welcome, Anne, and thanks again for having me. It is an Amazing job you are doing with the blog.

P.S: If you enjoyed reading this post and will love others to learn from it, please share on Facebook. Want to be notified any time I post a new blog? Click the follow button on this blog or follow me on twitter @annemmeje. Thank you, as always, for your support.

MEET ADA OPUROZOR: A PIONEER OF E-COMMERCE IN NIGERIA AND CEO OF TWO MAJOR ONLINE STORES

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Ada Opurozor

Editor’s Note:
When I learned I would be interviewing Ada, I was pleasantly surprised because I had thought that with the level of success she has attained, she should be interviewed by Forbes, not me. CEO of Da-Funshop and Wholesaleng, Ada started offering goods for sale online when many Nigerians still thought Facebook was all there was to the internet. E-commere wasn’t Ada’s first venture into entrepreneurship. As a child, Ada displayed steamed groundnuts for sale in front of her parents’ home, to make her “own” money, much to the embarrassment of her blue-blooded father who graduated with a first class in Statistics.

After graduating from university, Ada worked with her father’s advertising company. Not one to be complacent because of her father’s success, Ada opened a brick-and-mortar kids’ store. Thereafter, seeing the need to serve customers outside Lagos, Ada ventured into e-commerce. Today, drawing from her experience in running Nigeria’s favorite online kids’store and Nigeria’s No.1 wholesale mart, Ada now also runs a company that offers digital marketing and website designing. In this interview, Ada gives us an insight into how she came to be a serial entrepreneur.

Let’s Get to Know You.
A: My name is Princess Ada Opurozor, a serial entrepreneur and CEO of three Companies: www.dafunshop.com-Nigeria’s favourite online kids store and www.wholesaleng.com- Nigeria’s number 1 online wholesale mart and Big Ideas Communications Limited- A web design/digital marketing Communications Company.
I do not believe in Impossibility, everything is possible.

You are one of the pioneers of e-commerce in Nigeria, an exceptional feat. Do you have a background in technology?
A: I have no background in Technology. I had my first degree in Mass Communication and started my work career in the Advertising/marketing Communications Industry as a Client Service Executive. I had always loved business so I started a Kids Store even while I was still working. I had to resign my job after 6 years to run the kids store as I needed it to succeed.

What motivated you to transition from a brick-and-mortar store to online business? Do you still have physical stores?
A: The Motivation was the desire to succeed. The business wasn’t doing as well as I had hoped and I was thinking of ways to reach more people than those within my store location. Going the e-commerce route was me being innovative. At that time, online stores weren’t so popular in Nigeria but I had shopped online from stores abroad and one day I said to myself, if I, being I Nigeria, can buy from stores in UK and China, without even meeting these people or stepping my foot in these countries, then people from far and near can also buy from me if I take my business to the world-wide web. That gave birth to http://www.dafunshop.com (Nigeria’s favourite online kids store).

Going Online really helped grow the business beyond my expectations. We still have a walk-in Store where customers can walk in to buy if they do not want to shop online.

How have you succeeded in ensuring goods are delivered to your customers without getting lost in transit? Are the goods insured?
A: We work in partnership with some reputable Courier and logistics company who ensure delivery of orders to our customers nationwide. The Courier Companies insure these items so they get to replace any item lost in transit although this has never happened in our years of doing business. The worst that has happened is that an item got damaged in transit and in such cases, we replace the item and charge the courier company for it.

What’s your return policy?
A: We have a three-day return policy within Lagos and a seven-day return policy for outside Lagos orders. However, items on SALE/Clearance are not eligible for returns.

How do you ensure customer satisfaction?
A : We encourage customer feedback as that is the only way we can improve. Customers drop feedback on our website, Facebook page or in –store and we are always ready to look into areas of concern.

Many Nigerian entrepreneurs complain that though there are many unemployed graduates in Nigeria, it is difficult to find skilled employees with good work ethic. What has been your experience with finding skilled employees with integrity for your business?
A: This is a problem that we face regularly. Getting the right people with the right attitude is like looking for a needle in a haystack really. I always say, there are lots of people looking for jobs but very few willing to work. I have had dedicated serious staff as well so all hope isn’t lost, we are always on the lookout for such people who can bring something to the table.

Nigeria has a reputation for fraud. Your success shows one can achieve any goal the put their mind to. How have you been able to ensure your customers’ financial information do not get into wrong hands? I understand your sites are 100% secure.
A: I always tell people that Nigerians are not the only fraudulent people in the world. There are fraudulent people everywhere. A friend of mine got duped trying to do business with some Chinese guys so this fear applies everywhere. We have been successful because we do our best to fulfill customers’ orders as timely as possible. My happiness and satisfaction comes when I read messages from customers on how happy they are with goods purchased or our services etc.

Let me say something here, we are currently the only online store now in Nigeria that doesn’t offer pay-on-delivery service anymore. Initially when we started, we did pay-on-delivery for the first two years, it wasn’t an easy ride. Some customers are not really serious and just want to play on the website, when you go to deliver, they switch off their phones on you or blatantly reject the item for flimsy reasons. They even refuse to pay the delivery fee for bringing the item to them so who bears that cost? We decided to only process prepaid orders and I tell you, business has not slowed down at all, we are still very busy. We have made a reputation for been a serious business and our customers do not doubt our reliability at all. Also for new customers who are skeptical, they can choose to walk into our physical store in Festac Town, Lagos to buy. Those who are outside Lagos and can’t visit themselves, may send their friends or relations to the store to shop for them.
On Site Security, we use a reputable and secured hosting company. Also paying online on our site is very secure as we also deploy a reputable payment process for this purpose.

Who are your major competitors? What sets you apart from them?
A: Many Online Stores are springing up every day so competition is stiff. However, for instance the wholesaleng.com, we are really the only ones doing what we do the way we do it for now. We sell items in bulk online in Nigeria from various categories ranging from baby to kids to beauty to appliances, etc., at low wholesale prices. Our main focus are resellers who own kids stores, supermarkets, gift shops, bookshops, beauty shops etc. For dafunshop.com, what sets us apart from other kids’ online stores is that we have a walk-in-store and an address. Most online stores just have telephone numbers on their contact us page.

I notice your stores seem to offer high-end products; my friends who patronize you are from upper middle class families. I see some kids’ cars that go for over a N100,000 on your site. Obviously not many Nigerians can afford that. Do you have products for the average Joe (or is it Emeka since we are talking about a Nigerian market)?
Yes of course. Our Customers cut across all classes. You will also find products for as low as N50 on our website or In-store. We stock items for people of different pocket sizes. If you are looking for high-end or low-end, you will find them at our store.

What do you like most about being an entrepreneur?
The fact that I own me and own my time. I can decide to take a vacation anytime and not answer to anyone. The fact that I love what I do and I am happy. The fact that every sweat, every effort I put into the business translate into my own pocket. I love that.

What is the difference between Da-Funshop and Wholesaleng?
Da Fun-Shop is a Kids Retail Business with a Walk-in and online store. Our Customers are mostly parents who wish to purchase unique, quality items for their kids. While Wholesaleng is a strictly Online wholesale business with a physical office. Wholesaleng customers are mainly resellers who own their own shops.

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You were in South Africa recently as a guest speaker at an e-commerce conference; how was the experience?
It was a wonderful experience for me as I got to meet different people taking advantage of the online hemisphere from other parts of the world. I got to rub minds with intelligent driven young people like myself. I was motivated and inspired to do more.

Has the depreciation of the naira affected your business?
Yes, it has affected us greatly. Prices of goods have doubled and the purchasing power of the average Nigerian has decreased so this has caused a huge problem as many people are not buying or shopping as much anymore. Some of our customers who used to buy wholesale on a regular basis to stock up their shops have not placed an order in a long time.

Do you miss being a paid employee?
Not at all, I DO NOT miss being a paid employee at all. I make more than I could ever dream of working for someone and I have full control of my time as well.

Do you have any challenges peculiar to your business as an online business?
The Challenges we face are two-dimensional as we are both an online and physical store so we face common problems associated with these industries. Problems such as Server- down time, Power(electricity) remain a major challenge. We have to have steady power, computers have to be on 24/7 as orders are processed each second.

You deliver in all 36 states. What is the average time it takes from the time a customer places an order to the time the goods are delivered to them? Have you ever delivered to Zamfara (I assume it is one of the most obscure states in Nigeria)?
Yes, we deliver to all states in Nigeria. As long as there is a bus going to that state, we can deliver there. The average delivery time is one day in Lagos and 3-5 days outside Lagos. And yes, we have processed orders from Zamfara.

Where do you see your two online stores in the next seven years?
In the next seven years, we see Da Fun-shop having more Walk-in-stores in other states in Nigeria. We see ourselves being a household name. For Wholesaleng, we intend to increase our product categories/lines and start delivering products outside the shores of this country.

Fittingly, drawing from you experience in successfully running two online stores, you now design websites and run digital advertising campaigns for clients. Please tell us the importance of a good web design.
I have always been very artistic and picked up graphic designing when I was working in the advertising industry. By the time I left, I was writing advertising copy and doing graphic jobs as well.

Moving into the Online industry, I realized a lot of people were unreliable and leaving the fate of my business to some unreliable web designer wasn’t the way I wanted to do things so I decided to learn web-design in order to manage my online store myself. By the time I decided to set up wholesaleng.com, I was able to design the site on my own. Since then I have built websites for some other clients. Most web design jobs I have done are based on referrals from people I have worked for in the past. I also run digital advertising campaigns, social media campaigns for my online stores and other clients as well.

A good website is very important as this is a major factor in ensuring that interest becomes a Sale. Customers should be to navigate the website easily, find products and place their orders easily otherwise they can give up along the way and the store loses.

You previously worked in an advertising firm before digital marketing became prevalent. What skills from your previous experience have you transferred into your services as a digital marketing consultant?
Advertising principles whether traditional advertising or Digital advertising are basically the same. I learnt Copy writing, graphic designing, client management and lots more from my previous employment and this has contributed greatly to my success in my own businesses.

How effective are digital marketing?
Digital Marketing is where is the world is now. The Internet has made the world a truly small village; communication is a lot easier with all the social media sites, apps etc. Tapping into this benefit has helped most businesses since it is easier to target specific audiences and also easier to measure effectiveness of your advertising online.

Can you give us a price range for designing a website?
Depending on the features needed on the website, prices may vary from N50,000 to N500,000. An e-commerce site costs more than a corporate website due to certain plugins and features that have to be integrated like payment, shipping etc.

What is the minimum budget one should have before they can consider digital advertising?
There is no minimum or maximum budget. We can work with what the Client has available. No matter how small, every kobo expended will bring in a result.

You are proof one can do it all and a breath of fresh air in a country where the media tend to publish mostly depressing tales. You are an inspiration to young women.
Thank you very much for granting this interview.

You are welcome.

Meet David Ifedilinwoke, Aba Real Estate Lawyer Who Played a Pivotal Role in My Most Fulfilling Case

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David Ifedilinwoke

Editor’s Note: It was 2010. I was in my mid-twenties practicing law in a private law firm in Aba, Nigeria. On this day, I had just finished a hearing in court and was getting my gown and wig ready to head towards the door when some young men approached me. I recognized them as prison inmates who had been granted freedom from the day’s proceedings; the Judge had dismissed the case against them after their attorney’s request for same on ground of lack of diligent prosecution. The young men who looked rather benign for armed robbery–the crime they were charged with– told me they had a friend in prison who needed an attorney. I wrote down their friend’s details and promised to pay him a visit in prison.

In the days that followed, I visited Aba prison and interviewed the inmate. I also obtained some records from the court which showed he didn’t commit a violent crime. A judge did grant him bail the day he was arraigned months before but he did not have a way to contact his family to furnish bail. The police who arrested him took away his cell phone thus preventing him from having access to the contacts on his phone.

David came into the case when I was brainstorming the best way to secure the client’s release. Because the inmate did not have family to pay his legal fees, David and I took the case pro bono. We were first and second year associates who though we’d read a lot of law books in law school, knew little about the practice of law. Dave offered to use his own money to get the services of a bondsman to secure our client’s freedom even though there was no guarantee he would get his money back. After further research, however, we realized that since the police had literally abandoned the case, we could ask the court to dismiss the case against our client entirely for want of diligent prosecution, thus rendering the issue of bail moot.

We made the request to the court and the case against our client was dismissed. Dave and I, two young lawyers who knew next to nothing about the law, got a man who had been behind bars for months (or even one year, I don’t remember now) his freedom. I still remember the scene at our office the day he was released. The newly-released inmate clutched plastic bags that contained his clothes tightly to his chest while our boss, the amazing Bertram Faotu, congratulated us on our success. I think it was David who also gave the young man transport fare to go back to his home, Calabar, a City in one of the South-South States of Nigeria.

It’s been about six years since this case and I have since worked in a law firm where we win hundreds of thousands of dollars for our clients. But no case has ever provided the same joy as that of using my training as a lawyer and privilege as a Christian (the Christian part requires an entire post to do it justice; Christ did play a role in that case) to set a prisoner free.

As part of my series to showcase young entrepreneurs and professionals, I interviewed David to catch up on his current work as a property consultant lawyer in Aba, Abia State, Nigeria, hoping to enlighten Aba residents of what they should know about landlord and tenant laws in Abia State

Please tell us about your professional background.
I graduated from University of Calabar with a Law degree in 2004 and thereafter proceeded to Nigerian Law School. I was admitted to Nigerian Bar in 2009 and have been in active practice since then with Eleuthera Chambers, Aba, a law firm that was founded by a former Deputy Director-General of Nigerian Law School, Ernest Ojukwu. Eleuthera Chambers specializes in Election Petitions, Oil and Gas Law, Environmental Pollution, Commercial Litigation, Property Management, Civil Litigation, Arbitration, Human Rights cases, Incorporation of Companies with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and Registering of Titles Deed at the Land Registry. The firm provides a full array of legal services.

You, in particular, specialize in real estate law and property management. What type of services does your law firm provide to landlords when hired as a property manager?
When hired as a property manager/consultant, we help a prospective landlord with purchasing of a property. If a landlord wants to sell a property, we can help find buyers, all the while ensuring the transaction is done in accordance with the law. When a landlord hires our firm to manage his rental property, depending on the extent of the services the landlord desires we provide for him, we can draft rental agreements, issue notices to tenants, collect rents and remit same to landlord, evict non-paying tenants or tenants violating the terms of the lease etc.

About what percentage of the rents generated from a property can a landlord expect to pay as fees to a property management attorney?
A Landlord may choose to pay his property management attorney 10% of the rent generated from the property or the attorney may, on the instruction of the landlord, have the tenants pay the attorney 10% of the rent in addition to the rent. In the second scenario, the landlord has nothing to lose as he gets his entire rent while the tenant bears the burden of paying for the professional management of the property. So the landlord dictates how a property management attorney in Aba gets paid.

So with the wide range of services you provide, an out-of-state landlord need not worry about the maintenance of his property once he puts you in charge?
Yes, because we basically do everything he would do if he were present. If a landlord is not resident in Aba, he can direct the tenants to contact us directly when there is an emergency. Regardless of whether the landlord is resident in Aba or not, once we take up management of a property, we direct tenants to communicate directly with us and not with our clients in all matters relating to their tenancy at the property. We undertake the maintenance of the property subject to the authority to manage given to us by the Landlord.

Why should landlords have rental agreements with their tenants?
Landlord tenancy agreement is vital in management of a property because it determines the nature of the tenancy, for example, whether it is a yearly tenancy or a month-to-month tenancy. When such terms are not expressly provided, it makes it is hard to define the nature of the relationship between the parties and this because a problem when time comes to evict a non-paying tenant. In essence, tenancy agreement governs the landlord-tenant relationship, stipulating their rights and obligations.

Do the terms of a rental agreement trump the provisions of the law where there is a conflict?
No. A tenancy agreement does not trump the provision of the law where the law is established to protect a tenant, like the requirement for mandatory statutory notices before evicting a tenant. As to those matters the law does not cover or covers but allows parties to make agreements contradicting the law, then the rental agreement is applicable in such cases. Law allows Landlord and tenant to agree on the period of Quit Notice in the event of eviction.

Some landlords resort to self-help to remove tenants who are not paying rent. Is there a remedy for a tenant who is evicted by his landlord without following due process?
Any tenant removed through self-help is advised to approach court for redress. The Law requires a landlord to follow due process before evicting a tenant. The court will award him damages accordingly.

In California where I practice now, the law requires a landlord to make repairs even when a tenant is in occupation. In other words, a landlord has an obligation to provide a habitable dwelling throughout the life of the tenancy. Does a landlord have a duty to repair under Abia State laws?
Yes. Landlords under the Abia State Recovery of Premises And Rent Control Law have a duty to repair their building and such is usually included in tenancy agreements.

What are the grounds for evicting a tenant in Abia State?
A tenant can be lawfully evicted in Abia State for breaching any of the covenants of the tenancy agreement; for non-payment of rent; if a landlord wants to make use of the premises; or if the landlord wants to make a major repair that will affect the building.

Evicting a tenant is quite technical. I remember a supreme court case where a landlord could not legally evict a tenant after five attempts. What are the steps a landlord must take before he can lawfully evict a tenant?
The procedure involves service of Statutory Notices on the tenant–the length of the notice depends on the nature of the tenancy; Service of Summons to the tenant; Presenting the case in court including fielding in witnesses to prove the case. After obtaining judgment in favour of the Landlord, then the bailiffs will be contacted to levy execution.

If a landlord appoints you as a property consultant, do you still charge him for legal services if you have to evict a tenant?
If we are to evict tenant from a property we are managing, we do not charge professional fees.The landlord only has to foot the bill for expenses incurred like filing fees, cost of execution, etc.

What defenses may a tenant have to an eviction proceeding?
Because a tenant is usually clearly in default before a landlord start eviction proceedings and a tenant cannot lie about such obvious fact, a tenant’s lawyer will usually only capitalize on irregularities, defects or mistakes on the face of the notices and the suit filed by the landlords lawyer to get the suit struck out.

Some landlords get suspicious notices from people claiming to be government agents asking for property taxes. How can a landlord know genuine tax demands from the fake ones?
Every landlord should send such notices to a lawyer who upon due inquiry will instruct the landlord whether to make a payment or not, and obtain clearance from the government upon such payment as proof of payment.

Your practice also extends to perfecting titles for land sale transactions. Please can you walk us though the legal process of buying a land to make sure good title is passed?
When a client consults us to acquire a property for him, we first conduct local search at the Land Registry in Umuahia to ensure the land is unencumbered, that is, that there is no other person or entity laying claim to the land. We also visit the property physically and look at the beacon numbers to compare it with the one at the Title Deed. We also make word of mouth inquiries regarding ownership of the property from people living close to the property.

If the land is a communal land, we make sure that the head of the community and principal members of the community consent to the sale. If title is clear, then we draw up the deed, have the parties and witnesses sign it, and then register the property in our client’s name.

How much can a client buying a land in Abia State expect to pay his lawyer for helping him comply with all the legal requirements for buying land?
Lawyers in Aba charge various rates, 5% on the average. Besides the lawyer’s fees, the buyer also has to pay the government for the registration and perfection of the title. In Abia State, Nigeria, how much the buyer pays for registration is dependent on the location and worth of the property.

Aba residents complain of poor infrastructure; what has the NBA Aba Branch done to ensure the executive arm of the government is accountable to the people of Abia State?
NBA Aba is trying its best and the present Government is now improving in terms of roads construction and payment of salaries to civil servants etc.

Recently, a friend in Lagos told me that the landlord of a real commercial property she was leasing wanted to evict her just after two years of her establishing a business on the property and after she has built an impressive client base. Meanwhile, the landlord collected two years rent from her upfront when she moved in. When I researched, I discovered it was actually a crime in most part of Lagos for a landlord to collect two years rent in advance. Does Abia State have rent control laws?
Yes, Abia State has Recovery of Premises and Rent Control Law but does not make two years advance payment a crime.

In 2014, You petitioned Abia Sate Governor about two undergraduates who were arrested by a Vigilante Group but whose whereabouts could not be accounted for neither by the police, the vigilante group, nor the army whom the vigilante first claimed they transferred the boys to. How did that case end?
Unfortunately, the boys were never found after investigation so the case was referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The perpetrators are now facing charges for kidnapping and murder.

Thank you for enlightening us on these issues. Some people may have further questions for you after reading this. Please, how may they contact you?
Our office is located at Hospital Road. My phone number is +234 803 596 3898. Our website is http://www.ofy-lawyers.com/. And we get emails through eleutherachambers@yahoo.com

Thank you very much for granting this interview, Dave. I know how busy you are.
You are welcome.

Disclaimer: The Above is given for general information only and does not constitute a legal advice. Please consult your lawyer if you have any legal problem as no two cases are the same. Moreover, laws change constantly and only your lawyer can advise you of the current law at any given time.

Five Things to Learn From Author Elechi Amadi’s Life as Nigerians Mourn Him

It’s probably more than twenty years since I read The Concubine but the memorable characters (Ihuoma, Ekwueme, Emenike, Wodu Wakiri, Agwoturumbe etc.) Elechi Amadi created in his first novel remain vivid in my memory. I also remember the last sentence in the novel which read something along the lines of: “Evil Spirits are known to take away humans shortly after the moonlight games–that was when Ekwueme died.”

That I remember his characters and lines two decades after reading his work is proof that Amadi was a master of the art. That the Concubine has 4.02 rating on Goodreads –an impressive rating to have on the site considering that its members are mostly authors and sophisticated readers–is proof that Amadi was respected by his peers.

Amadi wrote most of his works before the internet became popular, so little is known of him. Apart from an occasion when I watched one of his interviews on TV, prior to his death, I don’t remember seeing news about him in the media. I do remember that in the past, I’d looked him up on Wikipedia to see what life experiences formed the man I’d come to respect.

With Elechi Amadi’s death yesterday, I thought it fit to share with you lessons from his life.

1. Amadi Was a Man of Many Parts; You Too Can Be
When I was much younger, I used to believe that one could be good at only one thing; that if one attempted to do more than one thing at a time, they would be Jack, mastering none of the trades. I used to believe that if one was intelligent, they wouldn’t be physically attractive, and vice versa. But as I got older, I learned that people who do so many things actually tend to be better at each of them than those who do only one thing.

Elechi Amadi died at 82. In his career that spanned about half of a century, Amadi was at one time or another a teacher, a captain in the military, a Land Surveyor, a Commissioner for Lands and Housing, a Commissioner for Education, a Commissioner for Information, and a Permanent Secretary, all while writing more than twelve books, including his autobiographical book Sunset in Biafra which chronicled his experience during the Nigerian Civil War. He used one of his enterprise as an inspiration for another.

2. You Don’t Have to Join the Bandwagon.
In Nigeria, we establish political affiliations based on tribal sentiments. For example, every Igbo seems to believe that Buhari is not delivering the change he promised while every Northerner is convinced that Buhari is not performing because of the burden he has of rectifying wrongs done by Jonathan’s administration. So if you are Igbo, you are expected to love Nnamdi Kalu and his Pro-Biafra movement; if you are from the Niger-Delta, you must share posts from the Avengers on your Facebook. All these without questioning the particular ideology you are expected to support.

But in his time, Elechi Amadi, being an intellectual that he was, thought for himself, never allowing what his people thought to affect his own beliefs, his conscience. During the civil way of 1967-1970, though he was from Ikwerre in Rivers State, a region that was on the Biafra side, Elechi joined the Federal side where he helped re-establish Federal authority in the Niger Delta. He didn’t mind that his people considered him a traitor.

From Elechi’s life, we can learn to stand up to support what we believe in and follow our conscience regardless of people’s opinion.

3. You Can Achieve Anything You Put Your Mind to.
Amadi studied Physics and Mathematics in the University but subsequently went on to write one of the best novels ever written by a Nigerian. With a background in science, one can assume that like most scientists, Amadi preferred Math to English–those two subjects that seem to be opposites to each other. One can infer that Amadi went out of his comfort zone when he ventured into writing. In the TV interview I mentioned earlier, I remember him saying that he first started writing the Concubine as a short story but it took a life of its own and developed into a novel.

Amadi wrote The Concubine without having a degree in English, History,Law, Literary Studies or even Communication, nor an MFA in Creative Writing–majors that would have equipped him with the skills necessary to become a writer. Yet he turned out to be one of the greatest novelists Nigeria ever produced. So if there’s any venture you have been considering undertaking but are discouraged to take on because of your perceived lack of adequate skills, give it a try as it may become your concubine.

4. Fame Can Come From the Unlikeliest Source
Similar to the above, while it is intuitive to follow a career path that is similar to our educational background, it doesn’t hurt to work on other interests that are unrelated to our course of sudy. Though Amadi did pursue careers that aligned with his majors in Physics and Mathematics (as a land surveyor and Commissioner of Lands sand Survey), what ultimately brought him fame was his passion for writing.

So you mustn’t practice Law merely because you have a Law degree. Even if you choose to practice law, find Something you love doing and do it as a side hustle. Besides the fulfillment it will bring you, it may also turn out to be a major source of income for you.

5. Success Comes With Rewards and Challenges
In his lifetime, Elechi Amadi was internationally recognized for his works. He also won numerous awards including one in 2003 as a Member of the Order of the Federal Republic. Because of his fame,however, he was also kidnapped in 2009 from his home in Rivers State. In an interview he gave after his release Amadi said, “Although I came close to death several times during the war, when I was kidnapped I found myself in a position where I was completely helpless. They made me to lie on a wet ground. The dangers were many at the time. A snake bite could have finished me off. I am slightly asthmatic and lying on a wet ground on a cold floor can easily trigger an attack I had no drug there and that could have been it.”

When one aspires to success, one also has to prepare for its downsides. In Amadi’s case, whatever travails his fame brought him were not in vain because by getting out of his comfort zone, he blessed many lives with his work as evidenced by these comments on Bellanaija when the blog announced his death.

Elechi used his literary skills to enrich the lives of many. What will your legacy be?

P.S: I finished reading Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood today. Since this year, I have also read Adichie’s The Thing Around Your Neck, Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen and Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen. I didn’t pay a dime for any of these books. I borrowed them from the local library here.

One of my dreams is to see a Nigeria where every community has a free public library. I don’t have the resources to do it. Please if you are thinking of what charitable projects to undertake, please consider providing your community a public library. If you are from Anambra State, don’t worry about the building to use. A colleague who is currently a State legislator in Anambra State told me that the government is willing to provide the infrastructure to support anyone willing to undertake such project.

Meet Rhoda: Lawyer, Banker, Luxury Consultant, and Music Artiste. Who Says You Can’t Do it All?

Grandpa
A portrait of Rhoda’s grandfather, as painted by her father who was an engineer, songwriter, artist, and author.

Editor’s Note: Rhoda and I were classmates in the university. We both graduated from law school in 2008. This week, I reconnected with her to see what she’s been up to. In this interview that is both revealing and inspiring, Rhoda shares her work as a Lawyer, Banker, Luxury Consultant, and Gospel Music Artiste. Rhoda can communicate in five languages, including sign language. If you consider that she graduated as one of the best students from my Law class at the university, then you may understand how this mother of two is able to excel in so many things, a versatility that is comparable to that of ivy leaguers. From this in-depth interview, I learned more about my friend than I did in the six years we were in school together. I hope this interview inspires you, like it inspired me.

Please tell us about yourself.
I am Rhoda Ameh Ajodoh. I love Jesus and I am not ashamed to say it. I got a degree in Law from Madonna University Okija, and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2008. I spent three years in a very renowned law firm in Kaduna and then joined a Bank in November 2012 where I work as a Relationship Manager for Business/SME customers. I have been blessed with a loving Husband, Peter, and two amazing boys, Alvin and Allan.

I see you have done well for yourself. Congratulations. A bank job is one of the coveted jobs in Nigeria. May we learn more about banking in Nigeria. Besides depositing and withdrawing money, what other products and services can customers get from banks?
The last time I was at my sons’ school for a career talk, I had to speak as a Banker and I explained to them that banks were formerly known for deposits and withdrawal of monies saved but that banking in this present day has changed a great deal. We offer loan facilities to grow businesses and assist customers perform contracts, purchase assets and property and meet other short term needs. We offer investments to assist customers grow their funds by investing in stocks, bonds, etc. We offer retirement savings (what most people know as pension). We offer opportunities for customers to write their Wills, we assist customers repatriate funds off the shores off Nigeria, we offer insurance on assets and persons, the list goes on. So you see that Banking is not only about saving monies and withdrawing them.

Thank you for helping us see banking differently. I wonder if better knowledge of banking practices would have helped a young woman I interviewed recently. She married at 17, but her husband died when she was 24. After her husband’s death, her husband’s relatives took away her only child and left her without a dime. Do you think she would have fared better if she had a joint bank account with her husband?
Really sad. I doubt she would have been left without anything if she had a joint account with her husband. Although it is one thing to have a joint account and another to have money in it. So even if she had a joint account with her husband, if there was no money in it, she would still be left with nothing. I advocate joint investments more than I do joint accounts, although most times people who have the former incidentally have the latter.

I once heard that old generation banks like Union Bank and First Bank of Nigeria have unclaimed money of deceased persons and that the deceased persons’ surviving family members do not know of the existence of such money. Do banks have an obligation to contact a next-of-kin when an account becomes inactive for a long time, since that may be an indication that the account holder is deceased?
Well, I may not be able to say for sure if these mentioned banks have such monies but coming from a system as such, I can say it is true. People die everyday and many of them have families who do not even know about what they are worth financially, not to talk of having knowledge of the existence of such accounts. Ordinarily, a bank is not under any obligation to contact a customer’s next-of-Kin because the bank has an obligation to maintain the deceased person’s privacy because the relationship between a bank and its customer is confidential.

However, banks are mandated to contact an account holder three months after his or her account becomes dormant. If he /she cannot be reached either through phone calls, sms, email or visit, the next-of-kin will be contacted to assist reach the customer. If the customer is deceased, then the next-of-kin being now aware of the existence of such account should do the needful to claim such funds. If the money is unclaimed after six months of its being dormant, it will be moved into a suspense account till it is claimed. Please note that this is in accordance with the CBN Guidelines on the management of dormant accounts and other unclaimed funds by Banks and other financial institution. It is also note worthy that this does not apply to a.) Savings accounts that are not hybrid accounts. b) Government-owned accounts .c) All individual accounts that are subject of litigation and/or fraud.

What should people do to ensure that all their assets go to their loved ones upon their death?
In my own opinion, people should write a Will. For those who have no Will, they should let their loved ones know, in the presence of relatives and others, from time to time, what they are leaving them as inheritance. I also advise to buy assets in the name of loved ones. Get someone you can trust, your spouse, pastor, lawyer etc and tell them how you want your assets distributed, put it in writing. This may not often work but it does sometimes. Again for some one with so many assets, it’s best to write a Will.

Your bank offers life insurance policies. Nigerians are averse to them. What’s your advice for those who think that, for example, a life insurance policy puts one at risk of being killed by the beneficiaries? Can one have a life insurance policy without necessarily informing the beneficiaries?
Getting insurance is like saving for your day of adversity. Yes, a person can have a life insurance policy without necessarily informing the beneficiaries especially where they are from a family where some people cannot be trusted. The insurance company, like the banks, has an obligation to contact beneficiaries.


What should Nigerian importers know about letters of credits in international commercial transactions?

The letter of credit is the most secure form of payment in international trade as it provides protection to both parties, that is, the importer and the exporter involved in international transactions. Some of the advantages to the buyer and seller include: The seller has assurance from the buyer’s bank that they will pay for the shipped goods. That means payment is guaranteed by buyer’s bank. For the buyer, the bank will only pay the seller for the goods, on condition that the latter presents to the bank the determined documents in line with the terms of the letter of credit

You live in Kaduna. Do you also manage bank accounts for people living in the other 35 states?
Not really, I am only meant to manage accounts domiciled in my Branch in Kaduna State. However, I have a lot of customers living or doing business in other states who for one reason or the other have accounts in my Branch. Managing their accounts from Kaduna is not difficult because they can access their accounts from any part of the country and with the aid of technology I can reach out to them when the need arises.

When were in the university, you were an active member of the choir. I understand your love for music is still strong. How have you been able to keep up with this interest given your tight schedule?
My interest in music dates back to when I was really little, my late dad was a music lover and he did well raising us in a music environment. Keeping up has not really been that difficult because it’s something I love to do and you just have a way of making time for what you love. Most Saturdays I attend rehearsals, sometimes all night rehearsals and when I have invitations to minister, I prepare to be ready two hours ahead of time so that I can put finishing touches to my work before rendition. My husband’s support cannot be overlooked; his encouragement and support is just awesome.

Are you working on any music project at the moment?
Yes. I am working on something I call ‘my big break’ right now. With the support of ROY Foundation (an NGO that supports youths with talents in music) I am working on my very first album which will be out hopefully before Christmas this year.

Congratulations, that sounds good. I will be buying your album. What type of music are you into?
I basically do Gospel but I’m concentrating on genres like RnB, Rock and Soul for now.

If given the opportunity, which music artistes will you love to collaborate with?
I have an endless list but for now I’d love to work with —SamSong, Tim Godfrey, Donnie Mirklurkin, Kirk Franklin , and Cece Winnas

Where do you hope to take your music to within the next five years?
Beyond the shores of Nigeria dear. (Laughs). A few weeks back I told some very dear friends, Rev and Mrs Joshua Nathan, ‘I am ready to come out this year’ I’ve been in the incubator all these while, but now I am bold enough to let the would hear me (Laughs).

Nigeria’s economy has been in a bad place since the depreciation of the naira. Some have argued that as the naira can purchase less and less of foreign products, Nigeria will be forced us to manufacture its own goods. In your opinion, will the present economic crisis help the average Nigerian in the long run?
The government’s motives might be good, but I personally believe the procedure is erroneous. The nation does not yet have in place enough companies to manufacture/ produce and meet our needs. Devaluing the Naira and at the speed without putting in place a fall back plan is risking the lives of many. In the long run, we could only hope the present situation helps the average Nigerian as the present situation is disheartening. The average Nigerian is suffering and the masses cannot understand this.

Besides your job as a banker, you are also a luxury consultant at Global Wealth Trade. How did you get the idea to get into the business?
I got the GWT idea from an old class mate. I took the chance because at that time I desired so much to make residual income.

GWT in Brief
Global Wealth Trade (GWT) is a Luxury Fashion Designer company in direct competition with other similar companies in the high end luxury designer industry. GWT are the owners of Feri, Feri Mosh and Posh designer brands. They grant individuals a FRANCHISE (exclusive distribution rights) to wear and promote these brands worldwide. The SIGNIFICANT difference is that unlike Gucci, Prada, D&G, e.t.c. Feri, Feri Mosh & Posh are NOT displayed on shelves in high street shops and hotels worldwide. The company has adopted Direct Sales, otherwise known as Word of Mouth Marketing to distribute their products because it is the MOST POWERFUL method to distribute any product or service. Therefore, GWT can pay you $500 and up to $10000 for wearing and promoting Feri, Feri Mosh and Posh. For details, I invite you to attend a live or online GWT tour. You can also visit my mall: http://www.gwtcorp.com/rhela

What products do you offer through Global Wealth Trade?
GWT is a Canadian luxury designer company . Our products include jewelry (gold, diamond, silver, plangsten and tugsten), shoes, bags, purses, opticles, sun shades, perfumes etc.

It’s not easy to land a good job in Nigeria. How did you get your banking job? And what’s your advice to job seekers?
I got mine through my brother’s friend. I left my old job for about a month then I got a call from a Branch manager who was a friend of my brother’s. My advice- search online, talk to people, grow yourself, attend trainings and read, have your updated CV always handy, most of all pray and trust God for the best.

You are open about your faith as a Christian. What’s your advice to young people about the role God has to play in their lives if they must succeed?
(Laughing) I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. I love God and He is the one keeping me. He has good plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11) and so it makes my life easier. Whether things go well or not, I know there is a better end for me. I tell youths that a life outside God is hopeless. Who do you turn to when things go wrong, your maker or a fellow creation? If you must succeed then you must trust God who knows all things, sees all things and has dominion over all things to show you the path to walk in.

As a wife and mother of two, with a demanding job and side hustles, how do you maintain work-life balance?
Have I been able to maintain work-life balance? (Laughs). Anyway, I must say I’m trying my best. God has been faithful to draw my attention to whatever is suffering at any point in time. He also has a way of showing me a way around.

Do you miss being a litigation lawyer?
Oh yes. I do dear. Since the beginning of this year, I have been considering going back. I will next year but I am not really going to do litigation, I intend to focus on corporate legal practice, drafting and corporate registration.

I know you to be an avid reader; you introduced me to Max Lucado. What’s the last book you read?
Last book? (Smiling) I am reading one now ‘Max on life’ the book answers questions with scriptural backing on life in general: relationships, parenting, death, eternity, marriage etc. It’s a beautiful one. You should get it.

Thank you. I will look it up. I’ve always known you to be an active member of any community you find yourself, seeking ways to leave people better than you found them. One of your projects was a youth ministry. Do you still work with youths?
Oh yes. My husband and I presently reach out to youths around us, home, church, work etc through music, talk, concerts etc.

Your versatility is outstanding. You speak Yoruba, Hausa, Igala, and English. How did you come to know so many languages?
I am more fluent in Hausa and Igala (my mother tongue). I learnt Hausa probably because I was born and brought up in the North (Kaduna state). I learnt Yoruba in secondary school from my friends and then I had more Yoruba friends in the university. I understand it better than I speak it but I can at least communicate with it.

You also know sign language. How did you learn it and has it ever come handy?
I learnt sign language in my church, All Nations Christian Assembly, (ANCA) Sabon Tasha Branch, Kaduna. My husband who was then a friend was one of my teachers. He taught and encouraged me to interpret for the hearing impaired in my church.
It has come in handy a lot of times. Sometimes I attend weekly activities in church and then I come in to find some hearing impaired brethren and no one to interpret. I just take up the responsibility. I presently have a customer who is impaired too. Whenever she comes into the Bank, she is directed straight to me (laughing). I have so many of them as friends and it’s beautiful.

You lost your dad recently and I read your touching tribute to him. You hinted that he may have prepared for his death. What has helped you most in dealing with your grief? And what is your dad’s greatest legacy?
It’s about five weeks since my dad passed on to Glory. It has been a difficult time but my heart is at rest because his testimonies have just been flooding in and it’s overwhelming. Why I say he was ready is because he was a Christian; he showed my mum and brother where he wanted to be buried about a year ago. He prayed for all his children, grand children, his wife and some friends before he stopped talking. He did a lot more that I don’t want to mention. It’s been emotional but in all God is glorified.

What has kept me going is the life he lived: he was humble, content, and brave. He feared God and lived a legacy that has put me on my toes. He always said he desired that we (his children) exceed the standard he has set for us. He was an Engineer, author, and a song writer. His life and the family he left behind, I believe, is his greatest legacy.

Looks like you are a chip off the old block, you excel in so many things just like him. Please what’s your dad’s name and the title of some of the books he authored?
My dad’s name is Raphael Ken Ajodoh. His books are: Grass, Grace and Glory; Air Chaser; Fear Wears Out Your Peace; The Positive and Progressive Leadership; and Queen Ayaya.

Where do you see yourself in the next seven years?
Beyond my expectations. I believe my expectations are too small compared to where God wants me to get, though my expectations are really big. In seven years, I will be where God wants me to be and I cannot imagine it. I’m certain it’s really big and bright.

After this interview, people may have further questions for you. How may they contact you?
They can email me at rhodaaps@gmail.com, or call me at 08059262700. They can also check my mall via http://www.gwtcorp.com/rhela

Thank you very much for granting this interview, Rhoda.
Sincerely, it’s my pleasure.

I Know Someone Who Has Five Jobs. Here are Ideas to Help You Get Out of Unemployment Rut

You graduated from university five years ago with good grades. You have yet to find a job. It’s not your fault. I have been there. But then you heard about your former classmate who has a nice-paying job and other money-making side-hustles. How did he do it? Why does he have multiple sources of income and you have none? In this post, I will give you ideas on how to leverage the opportunities you already have, opportunities you previously neglected, to get you going. And here is where it gets good, once you get busy, people trust you more and give you even more responsibilities–you establish multiple streams of income.

Ike’s and Silvia’s Stories
I started writing this post about a month ago when a former classmate told me how well another former classmate of ours, Ike*, was doing. A young attorney, Ike has a successful law practice in Abuja. Besides his day job, Ike is also a Special Adviser to a State Government in Nigeria. When he gets home from his law practice where he wears a suit and a tie, Ike puts on casual clothes to visit work sites where he acts as a supervisor. For this third job as a supervisor, Ike is contracted by busy businessmen who have ongoing building construction projects but cannot make out time to monitor day-to-day progress at the sites. Ike uses his training as an attorney to ensure that workers comply with the building plan, resources are not wasted, and deadlines are met.

The same weekend I heard about Ike’s success, I ran into Silvia and was even more inspired by how well she manages her time juggling multiple jobs. Silvia* has a demanding job as a top manager in a private firm. Silvia also has a real estate investment that requires as much attention as a full-time job such that some investors with a portfolio as big as hers employ resident managers for the sole purpose of managing the properties. In addition, Silvia teaches three classes in a State university. Silvia is also currently studying for her Ph.D program. Lastly Silva is the primary care-giver to her two kids. Though she no longer does, just a few years ago, Silvia also had another teaching job for her Saturdays.

Why You Need to be Successful
While having multiple jobs may make a work-life balance harder to achieve, it has its upsides. When you diversify your sources of income, you can do many things you cannot otherwise do with limited resources. You can upgrade from shopping at Ross to Nordstrom. You will have sufficient fund for medical bills and legal bills. (As unfair as it sounds, health can be bought, and justice can be bought; ask Lamar Odom and O.J. Simpson.) Further, when you have enough money, you can send your kids to best private schools around and set them up for a great start in life. Most important, when you become rich, you are able to touch several lives. (Even if he had good intentions, the good Samaritan will not be known today if couldn’t take that wounded traveler to the hospital because of lack of money.) Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are able to fight and eradicate diseases around the world because of the enormous amount of resources at their disposal.

Start Somewhere, Get Busy
You don’t have a job so that sounds like a good reason to stay at home all day binge eating and netflixing. The key to getting started is to get busy, occupy your time with something productive, however small.

For example, I find that volunteering has a way of opening hitherto closed doors. If you are looking for a teaching opportunity, walk to that primary school close to your house and tell the principal that you want to volunteer in his school. It’s more likely than not that he will find something to keep you busy. When you volunteer with an organization, you have a higher chance of getting employed when a paid opportunity opens up than outsiders who are not familiar with the organization’s culture. I once volunteered with an organization and months later, when they were hiring, they first contacted those of us who volunteered with them to see if we were interested in the position before offering it to outsiders. Also I read a story by a Nigerian girl of how, when she was unemployed, she started volunteering with two hospitals in Lagos as she was in the medical field. With time, one of the hospitals was hiring and offered her a full time job. She said that while she may have “wasted” transport fares in those early days as a volunteer, commuting to both jobs, what she makes now more than compensate for the “lost” time and money. Had she been at home sitting on the couch, she said, she will still be unemployed.

What Do You Have in Your Hands?
In a post by this title, Toby Nwazor writes about how though he had always loved writing, he studied engineering at the university because of the misconception that intelligent people study sciences. After graduating, he got jobs in his field but was never quite successful. A question by his pastor asking him what he had in his hand, a natural talent, an allusion to Moses’ encounter at the burning bush, prompted him to go back to writing. He is now a freelance writer, happy and fulfilled. Before now, he didn’t believe he could make money writing. Sometimes, tapping into your natural talent can take you to places where you can never dream of going with your 9-5 job. Find out what you already have in your hands.

If you are unemployed, you are in a good position to find out where your talent lies. Because of the free time on your hands, you can try out your passions, interests, etc and see where they lead you. If you are an artist, draw a popular musician and tag him on social media. They take notice and share it on their wall, and bingo, you are getting calls from prospective clients. If you love writing, you can sign up an account with Wikipedia and pitch to Nigeria celebrities and businesses, who are notable but are not on Wikipedia. Offer to create a page for them. If you have an aunt or uncle whose business will do better with an online presence, help them set up social media accounts to advertise their products. As you are starting out, be open to doing this for free with hope that these first customers will refer future clients to you. Linda Ikeji, BellaNaija and Sisiyemmie worked hard long years before their passions turned into multi-million naira businesses. If you can’t think of anything to keep busy, follow your mum or dad to work; it doesn’t matter if it is at Main Market or Ariaria. Just get busy.

Leverage the Power of Social Media
On my Facebook page, I see wonderful posts from my former classmates and I am amazed at what they create (edible dollar note on a cake etc.,) that I share it to my friends. If you are reading this, you probably clicked a link you saw on my Facebook page. It’s my way of advertising my blog. And it has been rewarding in some ways. If you are creating something, share it on social media. It takes just one viral post and you are made. Olajumoke, the bread seller, is a case in point. Besides other endorsements she has, she just go a free five-year lease for a luxury apartment in Lagos. Though her story is more of a case of being at the right place at the right time, it shows how powerful social media can be.

Be Inspired

Chijioke Ben

Oresegun olumide

Art

The pictures above are works of two Nigerian artists, Chijioke Anyacho (paints with ink), and Oresegun Olamide (his artworks look real). In the past few months, both of their works went viral through the power of social media.

After his work went viral, Olamide was featured on CNN. CNN said “The hyperrealism created in the oil paintings makes his work seem so life like that it is hard to believe they aren’t.” What bigger advertisement does one need? I’m sure he can no longer keep up with demands for his work.

And Chijioke, who chronicles his journey on his Facebook page said his painting with pen was an accident. According to him, one day, he was waiting for his drawing materials to arrive and a thought came to him, “Why don’t you start with what you have?” He had a pen with him and he started drawing with it. Today his work is featured in other countries including South Africa. He has distinguished himself as an artist who can create incredible artwork with mere ball point pen. He recently finished a portrait Tinubu commissioned him to draw. Here’s what Chijioke posted on his Facebook page when his work first went viral:

“Friends please join me to thank God…..even if you don’t believe in God, just join me and thank Him….I am overwhelmed…I am blown away by what is currently happening to me right now…. THIS IS A MIRACLE. I just can’t explain this……it’s bigger than I ever dreamt.
I slept around 5am this morning…..from 3am till i slept i was responding to messages and notifications on Facebook and i kept saying to myself…
“i can’t believe this” Even as i write this, i am still saying “i can’t believe this”..
Friends this is beyond my widest imaginations….
Magazines from across Africa wants to feature me….
Television interviews are warming up…
Blogs are requesting….
Calls are streaming in…
NGO’s are indicting interest to work with me…
I can no longer handle my Facebook messages….its pouring in like rain…
I keep asking myself, what exactly did I do….what is it that I am doing? Wetin I do oooooo I no even sabi draw reach some people sef.
I AM SPEECHLESS OOOOOOOOOOOOOO
This is just crazy…..i am lost for words….
I had to call my Uncle(who’s my guardian) to express my speechless…he gave me the needed support when I started….way back when I was offline…
Friends request is streaming in as if am a public figure…
Request for my work is even surpassing what I can handle..
.
Last week I was just a nobody…..last week I was begging someone to have my work for a 60%discount…today my work has appreciated and its 3x the amount I was begging the guy for. And its reviewing itself to meet up.

-Chijoke Anyacho

You can only get this once in a life time intense feeling of euphoria if you get busy. And the good thing is once you get your big break, you can maximize the opportunity to further diversify your income. For example, besides selling his artwork at exorbitant prices, Chijioke can get gigs as a motivational speaker, get endorsements from bic, write a book on how social media can help a brand, etc.

Don’t envy him. You can do it too, just stop playing candy crush.

P.S:* Minor details changed to protect identity of real persons.

Three Reasons Why Criticisms Should Not Get to You

When I first started getting my feet wet in the legal profession (I still am), I once wrote a brief and my supervisor, after reviewing it, returned it with a note that read: “Good. Well-researched.” He didn’t make any edits. A few weeks later, in the reply brief, the opposing counsel wrote that the argument in the brief was “nonsensical,” was filled with “lack of knowledge,” and was a “gross failing” on my part. I was devastated.

About a week after we received the scathing reply, my supervisor walked into my office waving a sheet of paper; the Judge ruled the motion in our favor. The judge found my ‘nonsensical’ argument more convincing than the opposing lawyer’s.

As you try to succeed, people will tell you that you are not good enough, sometimes well-meaning. These encounters will affect your self-esteem and make you question your abilities. Don’t be discouraged. Here are three reasons why you should not give up on your goals in the face of criticism.

1. You Cannot Avoid Criticism if You Want to Succeed

How ever good you are, you can only avoid criticism by locking yourself up in a room, everyday. Once you make the decision to get off your bed and speak to even a family member, expect that from time to time, you will be reminded of areas you fall short. The more people you interact with, the more your ideas and actions will conflict with someone else’s. For e.g., if you are a stay-at-home mum, you have only your husband to please. But if you work, you will get criticisms from the workplace too.

It follows that the amount of criticism one gets is directly proportional to his responsibility. Despite his good intentions, President Obama is the most maligned person in the U.S. (bedsides perhaps the Kardashians). In Nigeria, President Buhari is the scape goat. Before him, President Goodluck Jonathan was. So if you aspire to play a significant role in the society, brace yourself for disapproval.

First Lady Michelle Obama learned this from experience. In a TV interview, when asked what her most important advice to young people was, the First Lady said, “to always keep in mind that however good one’s intentions are, one will be criticized.” Another quote I heard some years ago sums it up, “If you don’t want to be criticized, don’t say anything, do anything, or be anything.”

2. Criticisms Don’t Define You
Often, when people are criticized, they internalize the negative words such that they weigh heavily on their minds, lingering more than they should. But when put in perspective, criticisms hurt less.

If you consider that some criticisms are made in good faith, by those who care about you, to help you grow, then you will take them to heart and work on areas that need improvement. In the same vein, you should disregard criticisms made by detractors to pull you down.

Moreover, considering that people’s judgment and values are subjective, you should not care of people’s opinion when you need not. This quote credited to George Clooney sums it up: “You’re never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you’re never as bad as they say when you lose.” So learn to put both ovation and condemnation in their right place. If people’s judgement are not always reliable, why place undue importance on them?

3. Criticisms are Blessings in Disguise

Millions of people heard of Steve Harvey for the first time when he mistakenly announced the wrong winner during the Miss Universe contest. After the mistake, commentators predicted that Harvey’s career was over. But the reverse happened. Miss Universe invited Harvey to host the pageant again next year and his career is flourishing more than ever.

In an interview he granted Hollywood Reporter after the Miss Universe gaffe, Steve Harvey told The Hollywood Reporter, “I was asking God to help me increase my global persona. I don’t appreciate the route he took.’

I got to know Nigerian musicians Wizkid and Davido only after I read their Babymama drama on Nigerian blogs. While the stories defamed them, and rightfully so, it also made their existence known to me. Next time I hear their songs play, chances are that I will listen in more than I would have if I had never heard about them. More people listening to their songs translates to more money in their bank accounts.

People in public relations business say “there is no such thing as bad publicity.” So the next time you get a public reproach, remember that you could be receiving a free advertisement.

As far as you continue to relate with people, expect that people will disapprove of certain things you do. If you want to succeed, be open to criticism and humbly improve where necessary. If however you are not keen on succeeding, you now know how to fail–avoid criticism.

Dear Women in the Workforce, You are As Smart as Your Male Colleagues. Here are Four Mistakes that Hurt Your Career

When I was looking for job fresh out of law school, a lawyer, who would later become my employer, expressed his preference for male employees. He believed that female employees often have other priorities higher than their jobs and are more likely to be absent from work.

While family obligations–like having to leave work midday to pick up a sick child from preschool, or taking the day off for doctor appointments–affect the number of hours women work, there are certain other reasons, factors within women’s control, why women don’t make as much progress in their careers as men do. Here are four of them from my personal experience.

1. Women Lack Confidence So They Don’t Reach for Opportunities
Some months ago, a former classmate from university, a male, told me he was considering running for a political office in Nigeria in 2019. I was impressed and I asked, “For House of Assembly?” (Lawmaker at the State Level.) He replied, “No, House of Representatives.” (Lawmaker at the federal level) I believe him.

In her book Lean In Sheryl Sanberg, Facebook COO, told a story of how when she was in Harvard, she, a female friend, and her brother were all taking one class together. Before the exam, Sheryl and her friend read all the books required for the course which was between seven and ten books. Sheryl’s brother, on the other hand, read only one book and few days to the exam, walked into Sheryl’s room to be tutored.

When they finished writing the exam and were discussing how the exam went, Sheryl and her friend pointed out that there were areas they didn’t quite cover well in the exam. When they asked Sheryl’s brother how well he wrote, he told them that he would get the best grade in class. When the results were released, all three had A’s. In retrospect, Sheryl concluded, it wasn’t that her brother was overconfident, it was that she and her female friend were insecure.

People advance in their careers by challenging themselves to take on additional responsibilities beyond what their current role requires. However, research shows that most women don’t apply for new opportunities unless they have 100% of the qualifications required for the job. On the other hand, men apply for new jobs when they have only 60% of the qualifications required.

In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg also told a story of how when she was pregnant at a former job and had to take maternity leave, her male subordinates offered to ‘help’ by taking over some of her job responsibilities. By doing so, they positioned themselves for promotion should the position become available. No woman did.

Most women in the workplace already put their noses to the grindstone. Women only need to be more aggressive in accepting new challenges as that is the only way to learn and grow. Confidence is vital for leadership. So a woman who is good at her job but lacks confidence will be passed over for promotion while a more confident but less knowledgeable male colleague will be promoted.

2. Women Plan Their Careers Around Their Families–Sometimes Sooner than Necessary

About eight years ago, a young female friend had two jobs to choose from. One was directly related to what she studied in the university but the organization didn’t have branches in other cities, the other was with a bank that had branches across the country. She chose the bank job because, she reasoned, among other things, that if she got married in the future, she could transfer from the city she lived at the time to join her future husband wherever he might be living. Several years later, she got married, got a transfer and relocated to another city to join her husband.

While in my friend’s case, things seem to have worked out well, sometimes, women turn down opportunities when there is no imminent reason to do so. Many young women plan their careers around the expectation that they will get married and have children in future. So while their male colleagues decide, while in university, on which city to settle in and build a career once they graduate, women make little effort to start a career upon graduation but settle for any job they can find in the city where their parents live rationalizing that their future husbands will ultimately decide where they will settle. They reason, “why move to a new city and build a career only to be uprooted upon marriage.” This reasoning robs women between five to ten years of their lives that would have been used to get their feet wet in the workforce.

3. Women Rarely Ask for a Raise
One study shows that only about 7% of women negotiate their salaries whereas 57% of men do. Some female employees actually ask for a cut in their pay to accommodate other employees. Women don’t believe they deserve to earn more because they believe they aren’t worth more. But men think they are ‘awesome’ so they ask for promotions and raises–and they get them.

Recently, a female friend told me about how her husband who works in advertising prepared an ‘intimidating’ resume (she said it’s like a booklet) for her to help her in her job search. After her first interview, she felt she wasn’t quite as good as the resume portrays and told her husband to tone down the resume. Now, this friend graduated at the top of her class in university and is one of the most confident and most-likely-to-succeed women I know. Yet her confidence pales in comparison to her husband’s who she told me can nail down any job he wants because he will win any interviewer over with his confidence. If a woman as smart as my friend doesn’t believe in her abilities, how can she ask for a raise?

Because women focus more on result rather than pay, even when they are in a good position to ask for a raise, they don’t. Sheryl Sandberg said that when she was negotiating for her job at Facebook, it was her brother-in-law and her husband who encouraged her to ask Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, for more benefits including stocks at Facebook. She did and Mark granted all she requested. But for her husband and brother-in-law, sheryl would have settled for Mark’s initial offer which she thought was good enough.

4. Women try to do it all
Most women try to dot their i’s and cross their t’s. But leadership positions, with their many responsibilities, sometimes require sacrificing details for efficiency. Men succeed in the workforce more because they see the big picture. Women will succeed more if they learn to do the same.

Similarly, if a woman plans to remain in the work force while raising kids, something may have to give. For example, if you are a working mum, you are more likely to put your child in a blue (instead of green) t-shirt on St. Patrick’s day (ask Sheryl Sandberg)–Happy St Patrick’s day by the way–but does it matter? You have other important things to worry about.

Another female executive once told a story of how when her career was too demanding, she had her children go to bed at night in their school uniforms so she didn’t have to waste time getting them ready in the mornings. While this may be extreme, I can see how she had to do this to save her career. So if women can learn to let go of things that don’t matter, they can more effectively balance their careers and their work.

Women are uniquely gifted because they care about touching lives as well as they do about their careers. Several of my female friends fund non-profits they founded from their meager earnings. Women can accomplish more and make more impact if they make effort to occupy leadership positions. I hope this post inspires you to believe in yourself and assert yourself more. If you do, you are more likely to have an amazing career.

P.S. I was inspired to write this post after reading Sheryl Sanberg’s Lean in and watching her TEDtalk speech. Avail yourself of the two resources if you can. I found them very helpful. I have made almost all the mistakes identified in this post. But since reading Sheryl’s book, I try to accept more responsibilities and not turn them down on account of inexperience as I used to.

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