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.

How to Apply for Transcript from University of Nigeria, Nsukka

If you graduated from University of Nigeria, Nsukka, you are among the privileged few Nigerian graduates who can apply for their transcripts online. You don’t have to incur travel expenses traveling to Enugu or spend your hard-earned money on unofficial fees ‘settling’ university staff to get them to do their jobs.

Fees
UNN charges N15,000 to deliver transcripts within Nigeria, and N35,000 for international deliveries. That may sound like a lot but if you consider that you won’t expend money traveling to Enugu, missing work, etc, you will see that it is well worth it. You can use verve, visa, or master card to apply. The portal accepts payment only in naira at this time. If you are outside Nigeria, you will have to get someone in Nigeria to use their debit card to complete the transaction.

How to apply
To apply, click here. You will need to enter your matriculation number and other identifying information. You can apply for multiple transcripts at a time. Enter the name you used when you were in school. If you are a woman and you have married since graduating from UNN, use your maiden name as UNN does not know you by your marital name.

Student Copies
As at the time I wrote this post, the online application has no provision for student copies. However, UNN says you can apply online to have the official copy sent to you. Again, UNN alums are lucky the school doesn’t mind delivering the official copies to them. Many other schools insist alums come to them each time they need a transcript so they can deliver directly to the requesting institution.

Caveat
Delivered transcripts are NON-RETURNABLE. Successful transcript orders cannot be cancelled. Successful payments cannot be reversed.

Successful orders are packaged and delivered to the address specified by an alum while placing the order. An alum is responsible and liable for any error in the specified delivery address and would have to pay any additional expense in getting the package re-delivered to an appropriate location.

Standard shipping ETAs (estimated time of arrival) apply to all orders and vary pending on the selected courier agent.

UNN promises to do everything it can to ensure its alumni have a positive experience in acquiring their transcripts.

My Post on Bellanaija

I wrote this post for Bellanaija. I was touched by the reaction of many women trying to conceive whose stories and comments lent credence to the message of the post: That silence is golden when it comes to discussing infertility with childless couples. I hope you find time to read it.

Thank you all for your support, as always.

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.

Pls Dn’t Ryte Lk DS

It probably took you a while to understand the title of this post–“Please Don’t Write Like This.” That is what you subject your friends to when you sacrifice proper English on the altar of lols, imhos, and smiley faces (some of us can’t tell the difference between a smiling and a crying one). That is what internet slang has done to communication.

Internet slang and abbreviations became popular in Nigeria in the early 2000’s when MTN, desperate to recoup its investment in Nigeria telecommunication industry, billed an extra 15 naira for every 161st character a subscriber sent in a text message. It became a good business decision for phone users to substitute “r” for “you”, “dt”for “that,” etc. With its launch in 2006, Twitter’s 140 character per tweet limit further embedded the culture of word economy in the millennials. With time, normalizing misspellings in the name of efficiency led to erosion in the quality of written English. Using XOXO, lol, W8, cul, etc became an indication that one is moving with the times. Sticking to proper English is deemed old-school.

While Internet slang saves time for the writer, they take two times as long for the reader to understand. Internet slang also gives room for misunderstanding. A young man once told a story of how shocked he was when he got a text from his mother that read, “Your Aunty, Jane, died this morning. lol”. What was funny about their beloved Aunty Jane dying? It was only afterwards that his mother explained that she used lol to mean “Lots of Love.”

While Generally I don’t “ryte lk dat”, I remember once sending my then fiance (now husband) a text that had him looking over the internet for the meaning of PCM etc,. Also, on a recent day, I sent a text to a friend and used “anr” in one of the sentences. My friend’s reply came: “what is “anr?”” Anr happens to be an abbreviation lawyers and law students are familiar with. It is often used in citing cases to indicate there is another party to a case besides the named party, e.g., Buhari v. Jonathan & Anr. Because of my background, I took it for granted that everybody knows what my three letter replacement for the seven letter word meant. But to my medical doctor friend, it was all Greek to her. On the converse, I too have been in situations where I have had to tell my much cooler younger brothers to explain abbreviations contained in texts they sent to me. Whatever time a writer meant to save by abbreviating is lost when he has to go back and forth with the recipient explaining what he actually meant.

Besides the risk of being misunderstood, one is taken less seriously when they use internet slang and emoticons in professional settings. Many businesses ban the use of internet slang at work places, and rightly so.

Inappropriate use of slang can also cost one opportunities. Chimamanda Adichie, Nigeria’s foremost author, once said she doesn’t take emails with slang and abbreviations seriously. It would also appear that using abbreviations unnecessarily on dating sites results in one losing out on the best prospects. In this post Glory Edozie writing about her experience on Tinder said she swipes a left whenever she sees “pointless abbreviations i.e, odawise, cuz, ryte or anything similar” on a guy’s profile. People set these rules to ensure an uneducated person doesn’t hide under the guise of internet slang to cover his lack of knowledge.

Here’s the rule of the thumb for using internet slang: only use it on social interactions. Stick to the ones that are commonly known, e.g, lol but not PCM (Please call me). Never use it at the work place especially when interacting with supervisors and clients. Don’t use it when you are asking for favors. Use it in text messages to family and friends only when you need to economize data. This is a simple guideline. These things do matter. Inserting an emoticon in a job application can delete your chance of getting a job.

CUL8R. ( Does it mean “See you later” or “Call you later.” You pick.)

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.

Hulk Hogan’s $140 Million Lawsuit Win Against Gawker, A Win for Privacy

In this post, I condemned the unethical manner media companies like TMZ conduct their businesses–by feeding on the misery and weakness of celebrities. So when last month I read The New Yorker’s The Digital Dirt How TMZ gets the videos and photos that celebrities want to hide, I gave a fist pump excited that the tables were turning on TMZ. While reading the feature I was struck by the writer’s narration that when he approached Harvey Levin (TMZ’s Managing Editor) during his investigations, Levin expressed displeasure over the fact that the journalist had been contacting current and former TMZ employees for the feature, and instead of granting an interview Levin referred the writer to his publicist. I wondered if Levin realized the irony that while he aggressively digs for dirt on celebrities and send paparazzi to harass and follow them around, he won’t himself grant as much as an interview. After reading the feature, I hoped the Feds would investigate TMZ for possible violation of privacy laws.

While I waited for the Feds to act, last week I was exhilarated when a jury awarded Hulk Hogan (former wrestler) $140 million (Hogan only asked for $100 million) against Gawker, a media company that operates very much like TMZ.

Hulk Hogan had sued Gawker for publishing a sex tape that showed him having sex with the wife of a friend of his at the time, Todd Clem. While his sexual indiscretion is reprehensible, it is not for Gawker to act as a moral police. Consider what dirt(literally and otherwise) would be uncovered of each of us if there is a secret video recording our every action. (For example, though most people look down their nose at nose-picking, a survey shows that 91% of people do it when no one is looking.)Hogan sobbed as the verdict was announced. This verdict will definitely send a cautionary signal to online publishers. In an interview he gave after the trial, He said he sued not to make money but to send a message.

While media houses are easily held for defamation when they publish untrue and harmful stories about a person, it has been tricky to win an invasion of privacy claim due to its conflict with the first amendment right to free speech. In an invasion of privacy claim, a Plaintiff is saying though what you published is true, I expected a reasonable expectation of privacy regarding this subject but you published it and caused me damage. It is especially hard for celebrities to win privacy tort actions because it is argued that having decided to be in the public eye, they have given up any expectation they have of privacy.

The tort of intrusion which is one form of privacy tort encompasses not-consented-to physical intrusion into the home, hospital room or other place the privacy of which is legally recognized, as well as unwarranted sensory intrusions such as eavesdropping, wiretapping, and visual or photographic spying.

The element of intrusion is not met when the plaintiff has merely been observed, or even photographed or recorded, in a public place. Rather, the plaintiff must show the defendant penetrated some zone of physical or sensory privacy surrounding, or obtained unwanted access to data about the plaintiff. This element, that the act must have taken place in a private space, may be the reason Solange and Jay Z (Solange punching and kicking Jay Z), and Ray Rice (Dragging out his unconscious wife from an elevator) may not succeed in a privacy lawsuit against TMZ for their publication of the infamous videos. Though an elevator is an enclosed space, it was within a public area. So if you pick your nose while in the elevator alone (or break the wind) you do so at your peril.

In the Hogan case, Gawker and their attorney’s arrogance and lack of remorse may have played a role in the jury’s decision. In his closing statement for the defense, Gawker’s attorney insisted that uncovering the sometimes less-than-laudatory activities of public figures “is what journalists do, and at the end of the day it’s what we want journalists to do.” This statement rubbed the jurors who sat on the case the wrong way. After the trial, the jurors cited this statement and said that it spoke of the defense’s arrogance. One of the jurors cited that the defense was also “very flippant” during the depositions (I suppose the deposition was read in court).

A juror’s advice to Gawker founder when asked by an interviewer? ‘Don’t demean yourself by going for the vulgar and the lewd and the trashy. Stick to the newsworthy journalism — you understand what that is.’ When asked what his advice to Gawker is, another juror said, “Put yourself in their shoes, if you have the ability to do that,” before saying, “I don’t even know if they even have the heart to be able to do that. It’s just amazing, everything I listened to, that they have no heart. No soul. It’s all about the almighty dollar, and it’s sick.”

I couldn’t have said it better than the jurors. While is is easy to condemn Gawker for their exposure of celebrity secrets, I find that in real life, it is hard to keep juicy stories to oneself. If we take time to scrutinize every story we share, we will find that we spread harmful gossips and rumors about others as much as TMZ and Gawker do. For example, if you hear that a girlfriend who is neither engaged nor unwed is pregnant, will you pass this information on to mutual friends?

As a rule of the thumb, before you speak THINK, that is, Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind? It must pass all five musters. If it isn’t any of these, Keep it to yourself. This is the argument I made in this post.

Congratulations to Hogan! So what’s your opinion? Are you happy Hogan’s secret tape was leaked? Do you feel it was a just punishment for his sexual indiscretion and that the jury verdict is like paying him for committing adultery? Some people have taken this position. Please let me know what you think in the comments section.

Do You Know Your Car Plate Number?

Years ago, a lawyer told me a story of how once he was at a lawyers’ event when someone announced through the public address system that the person with car plate number so-and-so should step outside and repark his car which was blocking another car. After the announcement, nobody moved in their seats. It was only after further details like make and color were disclosed that somebody in the room realized it was his car. Apparently the owner of the offending car did not know his plate number. At the time I was incredulous that a lawyer wouldn’t know his plate number. (How the heck would he remember case names?)

So yesterday, I was on the phone with someone booking an appointment for me when she requested for my car plate number (and also the make, model, year and color). Here are two possible scenarios of how it went down.

First scenario, I gave the information without having to go through my records (after all I pride myself in my ability to recollect easily).

Second scenario, I could only give one of the information confidently so I promised to send an email. Then after the call, I hastily ran outside the house to get the rest of the information from the car port (after all, I struggle with knowing the names of cars so much so that recently when Father told me a relative bought a certain car, I told him I would have to google it to know the car he was talking about, much to his ‘disappointment. It could also be that I gave a fist pump two days ago when the letters on a red car I saw on the road confirmed my guess that it was an an escalade).

You choose which scenario to believe.

Growing up, I knew all my dad’s plate numbers by heart. There was the black and white plate number in the Peugeot 505, was it IM 4851 ZA? (Siblings confirm, please.) This was long before the Federal government commissioned the new white plate numbers that tagged Imo State as the The Land of Hope, Abia as God’s Own State and Anambra as the Home for All. But as I grew up and it became customary to have more than one car in a household, I figured there were more important things I could store in my brain than car numbers.

Knowing your plate number will come in handy when you find yourself in a similar situation like I found myself yesterday. Also, if your car gets stolen and your glove compartment is the only place having your vehicle’s information, you will make the police’s job much harder, that is, if they even find your story–that your car is stolen but that you don’t know its particulars– credible. So if you don’t know your vehicle information, make a mental note as you read this to memorize it on your way to work tomorrow (or Monday). You don’t want to be found slacking.

Don’t feel bad if you make effort to but still can’t memorize it though. It may well be that you are smarter than the rest of us. If it’s any consolation, legend has it that one of the most popular scientist didn’t know his phone number by heart, and that when asked, he would say that his brain was filled with more important stuff.

So do you know your plate number or your spouse’s? Tell us in the comments section (without disclosing the actual numbers, for your privacy). Indicate your gender too. I will like to know which of the sexes remember more.

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.

If you like my blog, please comment below, like and share on Facebook. Thank you, as always.