Thursday, March 29, 2012

HOW TO MAKE IT AS A RELIGIOUS ENTREPRENEUR IN NIGERIA

This article first appeared in Daily Times Nigeria

People have asked why I risk the wrath of friends and frenemies to say the things that many people think but no one says out loud. Simple. I am committed to your success. Many would like to keep these secrets from you. Not me.

Religion is big business in Nigeria. Millions cannot live without it, it is their link to God, to life on earth and in the hereafter. I see you look at many of these big clergy men who wear suits worth thousands of dollars and ride in cool private jets and think, ‘God, what holy act of worship will make me similarly endowed?’ Sometimes, especially after struggling so hard and getting so little, your faith begins to waver; you wonder if God is indeed the source of all the wealth. Consider me an answer to your prayer. Listen.

First, you need to look like you have what you are trying to sell. You need to look like God has been good to you. Invest in suits and ties and shoes. No big bushy beards. That’s for those crazy juju people. People should, at the point of meeting have no doubts about you. What? Should you perm or texturise and grease your hair? Don’t ask me. That one is a personal decision. Just look good. But if you are bald like me, I would say, don’t be too creative with the hair.

Invest in a good sound system. You need to use a microphone that enhances your voice. Then you need external speakers that will declare your presence in the neighbourhood. It does not matter if your neighbours are not believers or if they consider it a nuisance. Only those with the spirit of darkness are irritated by the spirit of light. It doesn’t matter if you have six members, you still need the external speakers when you are praying, dancing or singing. You need the speakers at night during night vigils- it is not your fault that some people can’t sleep when there is noise.

You need to show that you have power from God. You need to demonstrate the potency of this power. Miracles are one sure way to do this. In a country where getting basic things like water electricity and healthcare can seem like magic, people are desperate for miracles. Simple things like getting a job, owning a house, and getting pregnant are good raw materials for miracles. However, here you need to be careful not to commit a blunder. Don’t out of desperation announce that a man who has been blind from birth and has never known colour suddenly knows which colour is green and which is aquamarine. Or something scandalous like a man who has been deaf from birth and does not know any language suddenly can respond to instructions in English from someone he can’t see. Don’t try to raise the dead or fix cripples. Don’t do risky things like declaring you can cure HIV/AIDS.

There are easier ways. Safe miracles. I call them low-risk miracles. Say to a congregation of 1,000 people that someone here will get a new car this year. Or to a congregation with over 100 married couples that someone will get pregnant this year. Chances are that there will be that lucky person and that person will recognise this as a miracle and do the appropriate thing: come for testimonies and thanksgiving. The more testimonies you have, the more potent your power. The more potent your power, the greater the likelihood that you will buy that private jet.

Another way of demonstrating power is Prophecy. This one requires plenty of skill. To earn the title of ‘Prophet’, you need to invest time in understanding patterns and politics. Then you can accurately foretell the future. The more general the prophecy, the safer. Avoid mentioning specific names and places and dates. Say things like a very important man, a politician will die this year. Or, this country will witness a disaster this year but God will see us through it. Of course politicians die every year and Nigeria has no shortage of man-made disasters. Please, you do not have to be a prophet to be a successful man of God. One bad prophecy can ruin your business for good. So my advice is, if you are not sure how this works, stick to the miracles.

In Nigeria, demons and witches are the cause of every evil thing. From barrenness to joblessness to singleness to poverty. You need to be adept at casting out these demons and witches. You need to show your power. Show a witch that you are powerful and believe me, you will make an impression. Where will you find demons and witches? They will come to you. When they come, humiliate them. Slap a witch in public and all other witches will be petrified of you. You are, after all, anointed of God. Crimes like assault do not apply to you. And the good book says, ‘touch not my anointed’. Whoever tries to touch you will be attacked by your disciples and followers who cannot stand irreverent people persecuting their leader.

So, what do you do, when you have been sufficiently blessed and your business has grown substantially? Buy that private jet. It does not matter that you live in a country where poverty is the status quo. It does not matter that your members struggle to pay their tithes from lean salaries. This is the will of God for you: that you prosper. And how else can you prove your prosperity if you can’t be wasteful and own a private jet? Let bad belle people keep talking.

Good luck in this noble, righteous path to success. And God bless your hustle.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

HOW TO BECOME A RENOWNED ACTIVIST

You stare at the Nigerian on CNN; at his gleaming forehead. He is taking his time answering questions about Nigeria in an accent that is improved for export. After his name comes the title, Activist. This man has gone places with this title. You are not quite sure what this guy does, but you like the fame. There is NGO money involved for all the noise and ah, he travels. He goes everywhere. Places you dream of, London, Vienna, New York.

Ok. Calm down. I am here for you. You can be just like him. Just listen closely and you will very soon be acclaimed as one of Nigeria’s foremost activists.

Find something to be angry about. Nothing special. Nothing revolutionary. Something easy you can handle. Like fuel prices, corruption or electricity. Finding the right thing to be angry about can be the key to success. Many people in this business have gotten international interviews for organising town hall meetings with projector slides and statistics. Call it anything. Fuel-up Nigeria. Road-up Naija. De-corrupt Nigeria. Whatever. In fact don’t call it anything. Just be angry about something.

Be angry at the right time and in front of the right camera. Foreigners won’t give you cash or attention if they can’t access some tangible evidence of your work. Have a friend follow you around with a camcorder which will eventually be used to make that CD or DVD which will sell you to the clueless international media for whom Nigeria is a just a country with two regions that hate each other.

An activist doesn’t need to do anything in particular. So, avoid projects that will make you work as hard as Kenya’s Wangari Maathai whose Green Belt movement has planted 10 million trees. That is the real deal and it takes decades to get any recognition that way. So no Wangari moves, god bless her soul.

Let’s say you choose, Road-up Naija. You see, you don’t have to build roads, that’s the business of government. You don’t even have to organise communities to pave their own roads with mud and stones to show the government how it’s done. Not like that other Kenyan Evans Wandongo (heish, these Kenyans are spoiling the Activist business) who, instead of holding Light-up Kenya town hall meetings in the heart of pretty Nairobi, made nearly 10,000 solar powered lanterns for the good people of rural Kenya. The man thinks he knows too much eh? Well, like my friend would say, a plague on him! For our Road-up Naija project, we will do press conferences, write scathing articles, and rent a projector for our town hall meetings in pretty Abuja and posh Lagos. Kano, Kaduna, Ebonyi, Akwa-Ibom are too dangerous.

Now to be a successful activist, social media is a prerequisite. Twitter and Facebook. Twitter especially. You must spend a lot of time on twitter tweeting angry thoughts and statistics. You must say to the government, ‘I am watching’. Have the right people following you on twitter, those with many followers who will be awed by your intelligent anger given in 140 character instalments, so awed that they can’t help retweeting. I’d choose someone like popular gossip blogger Linda Ikeji. Just make sure she retweets you. Gbam. Slowly you will gather followers and one day, you won’t even need Linda.

Ok. Let’s go hardcore. Just in case you get bored and want a little action. Not the real deal- no hunger strikes and crap like that. Just something sufficiently wild that you can boast of. Let’s get arrested. Don’t panic. It’s not that bad. Just be in the right company so that it gets in the news. Then brag about it for the next many years. Tell people who doubt your activist credentials that you spent so and so period in jail with so and so and that they don’t know the half of it. Name the cells you have slept in and how awful they smell so that your accusers will bend their heads in shame and curse the day the thought came up in their minds to challenge you. Prison or police-cell time boosts your activist CV. It sells you. Before you know it, you will be spending more time in London and America than you could have ever dreamed of, holding meetings with NGO’s trying to help suffering black people.

Be prominent in a protest. You don’t need to start the protest. That is plenty work. All you need is to be in front where the cameras are. The videos and photos of you frothing at the lips raining curses on the government won’t say who started the protest or why. Even though you have houses in your home state, in pretty Abuja or Lagos, and in London, you speak for the masses. Wear a lousy t-shirt to prove it. The masses will be grateful and will speak about your goodness on radio, on tv and on twitter.
There are landmines though. Landmines that you may miss due to the short-sightedness inflicted by greed. Say you do your activist business and get a little popular. You start feeling like the best thing since nkwobi. You start getting invitations from the Presidency people to represent and speak on behalf of groups you know nothing about. Then they stab you by leaking information of the transport fare they provided (which you totally deserve by the way). It could be a mere fifty thousand, an amount you spend on recharge cards and shawarma in a month. But when it hits twitter that ‘favourite-activist-so-and-so collects fifty thousand from government’, it will look like a huge bribe delivered in Ghana must go bags. Then people will hate you, with the same fervour with which they loved you.

Another landmine, closely related to this, is that, you begin to have government contacts. You will become friendly with too many people in Government house, that when the time comes for a real event, say a protest you could have exploited, you are already too entangled with these people to join in insulting them. So you offer half witted statements on twitter or disappear from twitter altogether. And people WILL notice! Lesson: don’t play god or get greedy.

So, there you have it. I wish you a long and fulfilling career as an activist. I wish you many CNN, Aljazeera and BBC interviews. Many awards and twitter fans.