Thursday, May 24, 2012

HOW TO BEHAVE ON A NIGERIAN HIGH TABLE


(first published in Daily Times Nigeria)

I am on the left. PHOTO CREDITS: M. DABOGI.
Ok. I must say this: last Saturday was not my first time on a high table. In fact only last month, I represented a friend of mine who couldn’t make it to the Kaduna Polytechnic to give his speech. But this was the first time I was consciously engaging with the whole high table culture. 

I was delivering a speech on Identity and Politics in a Time of Crises. First let me say that the high table is for me a deeply uncomfortable experience. This is because I am a restless person and do not like being watched by a crowd like an animal in a zoo. Also I like to react to things and I have realized that it is a waste of time for me to hide how I feel about something or someone. My face tells all. So the high table is not the best place for me. 

However, I learnt a lot from last Saturday and instead of writing a glossy motivational book titled ‘How to be a Public Speaker in Nigeria’ or ‘Seven Habits of Highly Successful Naija Speakers’ and have my books sold at every hold up in Nigeria, I have decided, to risk poverty and share my thoughts with you for free.

LESSON 1: ALWAYS ASK WHO WILL BE IN THE AUDIENCE
I almost ran away when I walked into the hall and about a quarter or so of the hall was full of secondary school students- including students from a new Almajiri school. So that rendered nearly half of my speech unusable. Unfortunately one of the organizers saw me before I could sneak off and claim sudden illness. I had to instantly start mentally re-writing my speech.

LESSON 2: DRINKING THE JUICE REQUIRES SKILL
Now I assume that the juice on the table is not for decoration, but when it comes to eating and drinking in front of 300-500 people, I get very shy. Thirty minutes into the event I suddenly got very thirsty. In front of me on the high table were a bottle of water, a pack of juice and a glass cup. Everyone else on the high table ignored them like saints avoiding sin. The people on the high table even avoided eye contact with the juice. With every passing minute my frustration and thirst grew. I tweeted while on the high table and got some useful suggestions like, ‘it doesn’t matter’, ‘the rest are also waiting for you to drink first’ and ‘drink the juice with panache’. The last one, by a fellow writer struck me. ‘Panache’. I checked the word on my Encarta dictionary and saw the definition: ‘dashing style: a sense or display of spirited style and self-confidence’. I practiced pouring with ‘style and self-confidence’ with my hands under the table. I concluded that I would be better off not bringing the whole body of writers into disrepute by a lack of panache. By the way, the juice promptly disappeared as soon as the event was over just when I thought I could finally have a quiet sip beyond scrutiny. 

LESSON 3: USE AN IPAD OR NOTHING
Everyone comes to an event with an iPad these days. Pastors, Imams and those who don’t own iPads. I tell you they wanted to make me feel small, all those iPad wielding people. And here was I cuddling my dear ACER notebook, Magdalene. I could almost feel Magdalene feeling fat and ordinary in the face of those sleek things. But she kept her head up, dear Magdalene.

LESSON 4: USE THE TOILET BEFORE YOU GET ON
I hope it’s not abnormal or anything, but I feel the urge to pee when I am nervous and when  I am cold. I will google it to be sure. Anyway, the combined effect of nervousness about giving a good speech, frustration about the juice and the discomfort of so many eyes, I felt this urge to pee. When? Just when the speaker just before me was close to the end of her speech. Suddenly it felt like all the people in my village who were conspiring against my success had finally gotten to me. Gladly, the organizers came to beg me so they could sneak in a brief performance just before my speech. 

LESSON 5: BEWARE OF THAT GUY IN THE AUDIENCE WHOSE SOLE AIM IS SHINE AT YOUR EXPENSE
So I gave the speech. That was the best part. It emboldened me to at least open the bottle of water in front of me. I deserved it. All that speaking! Then during question and answer time, this guy, who eventually came up to me to inform me of his just having returned to Nigeria six weeks ago from Harvard, stood up to give a little speech of his own. He reeled out all the big social science terms and theories and although he claimed to be disagreeing with me, ended up summarizing my speech. All I could say (in my mind of course) was ‘God is watching you!’

LESSON 6: ALWAYS CARRY MONEY FOR PHOTOGRAPHS (OR WARN THEM NOT TO TAKE YOUR PHOTO)
So this woman photographer (God will judge her appropriately), with many photos of me in her hand, came right to the High Table before the program was over, to whisper that each tiny ugly photo was 200 naira. I felt sweaty all of a sudden because my wallet was far away where I had parked my car. Not that there was money in it. I would have to go to an ATM to be able to pay her. Now, the other people on the high table were looking at me. No, God will judge that woman! This is one of the few moments when I have been thankful for being a lawyer, trained to squeeze water out of a stone. I told her with a stern face: ‘I do not take photos. I do not like photos. I did not ask for my photo to be taken...’ I might have gone on and on and accused her of blackmail, of being an agent of my enemies and village people, but the woman by my side said, don’t worry ill just pay for all the photos. I initially protested, careful though not to protest too hard, lest I would have to make the uncomfortable trip to the ATM.
My prayer for you is that you are blessed with better high tables and more juice loving people on the high table. And that God shows you those plotting your downfall before they see you.


Friday, May 18, 2012

HOW TO BE A NIGERIAN JOURNALIST

If you ask me, you have the best profession in the world. And especially as a Nigerian journalist, even though your bosses never pay you, you have so much potential to make it in this life. I have taken my time with this one, only because of my dedication to your hustle.

As a Nigerian journalist you must recognize that people appreciate the good work that you do. That is why they provide souvenirs and other freebies at events. You must collect as much of the freebies that come your way. It is these freebies that will eventually make you a ‘branded journalist’. 

The fully branded journalist wears the fez cap he got from covering the Cancer Awareness Walk on International Cancer Day. He uses the fancy pen from the speech and prize giving day of a British school in Abuja. His notepads- all seven of them- are from different seminars; he prefers the one he got from the Section on Business Law Conference. His flash drive is from an Oil and Gas seminar- he likes Oil and Gas people because they are not stingy with souvenirs or food and drinks. His bag is from the National Conference of the Nigerian Society of Engineers; he knows how conference bags don’t last, so he looks forward to another conference this year. He has white, blue, yellow and orange t-shirts from the unveiling of new companies, product launches and company anniversaries. His shiny key holder is from covering the Annual General Meeting of a bank. 

You need branding. To help in your branding process, I am hereby making a call on companies and organizations to stop being stingy and step up their souvenirs to include jeans, belts and sneakers (or palm sandals). Wouldn’t it be nice to have it all?

Now you must watch out for stingy people. Some obscure group invites you to cover a symposium with a dangerous topic like ‘Curbing the Boko Haram Menace’. You take the risk, dust your Cancer Walk Face Cap and iron your orange 10-year anniversary t-shirt. You reach there and find to your shock, that the high table has only bottled water. This can’t be good. If high table has bottled water, they will serve pure water to the audience. But you stay and cover the event, do the interviews. When the time comes for you to leave, the organizers greet you with big grateful handshakes and smiles and tell you they look forward to seeing their event on air or in the papers. Someone gives you his card. They ask for yours. You don’t have a card but you tear a sheet of paper from the Business Law Conference notepad and write your number. They walk away. Nothing. No food in take away packs. No ‘thank you’ envelopes. No souvenirs! You think of the money you paid the motorcyclist to get here; the way you argued because he didn’t think the hall was this far from the junction; the way you shouted and told him if he didn’t know his way around Lagos, he had no business being a motorcyclist. Something has to happen to those tapes and interviews. They will buy all the newspapers tomorrow and watch your TV station until their eyes hurt. They will see NOTHING. Just like you saw nothing. Because that is what happens to ingrates.

One of your sacred duties as a Nigerian journalist is to connive with the authorities when it comes to figures of fatalities. Nigerians are bad with numbers and they have bad tempers. If you give them the real figures of how many Muslims or Christians or Igbos or Hausas were killed they will go and start another round of killing. So when 500 people are killed in that village, you must report the official figure of 16. It is better.
Make no mistake about it, you need to sell newspapers. Good headlines make good sales. So if your paper sells in the North for example and a non-Northern Boko Haram member is caught you must find out and include his tribe in the headline. “Yoruba Boko Haram Kingpin Complete With Tribal Marks Nabbed in Kaura-Namoda”.  Just like tribe is everything, a headline is everything. 

Sometimes you will be fortunate and land a cool job as a senior guy in a media organization. You will get to anchor a discussion program. Important people will be on your program. You must not do any research that will spoil your ability to think on your feet. You need to argue with your guest and interrupt him as much as possible when he is speaking. Butt in with your own views and suggestions. Nigerians like it when two people are speaking at the same time. They will enjoy the interview. After all, why be on TV if you can’t say your mind?

If you get really fortunate, and I pray you do, you will be discovered by the almighty foreign media and they will make you a stringer- one of those guys they phone when they hear we have been bombed. Then you will be able to sell our bad news in exchange for the title ‘International Journalist’. Some people may dislike you and call you a snitch that shows our dirty linen to foreign media. God will judge them. Bad news sells; it is not your fault that you get paid in crisp Western Union dollars to send in pictures and stories of bombings. Pray to be within driving distance when there is a bomb or shooting. That way you can quickly get there and do a phone interview and get paid. The more bad news, the more dollars. Foreigners don’t need to hear our boring good news. It is a job, and unfortunately, like the undertaker, bad things must happen for you to make money. God sees your good heart. It is He who will bless your hustle.



Sunday, May 13, 2012

A FOREIGNERS GUIDE TO RELATIONSHIPS IN NIGERIA


This is a very tricky issue and you must pay more than the usual attention. Take out your notepad and jot if you must. Call up my editor if you have problems- he has my number. In fact because of how tricky it is, for the first time I will be addressing male and female foreigners separately. And emm, for you who are gay, don’t worry. I have a little something for you too. I believe in equal opportunities you know...

White man/black woman
I must begin by explaining what people say when they see a black woman and a white man. Forgive me, but they think you just got a sex worker for more than the regular rate.

It is sad, but that is what many people think. Some even say it. Please, I am NOT talking to those  construction workers who deliberately set out to get prostitutes- we know your types.

Look elsewhere. Try naijabadgirls.com (or whatever site they are using these days). I am talking to decent straight white men who are looking for love, with or without sex to go with it.  You must do your background checks. Don’t pick someone off the road.

I am thinking of starting a consultancy in this regard where you pay a little something for us to run checks for you.  But before I finish registering my company, let me say that we have decent, well-bred women who don’t just want your money.  In fact don’t be surprised if she doesn’t want your money at all or if she wants to pay for her own stuff.  But she too needs to be sure about you to risk being looked at like a woman of easy virtue and brave all those judgmental eyes that will scan her entire body in disgust when you enter a mall with her by your side.

Woo her with respect. If she is uncomfortable going out at first, give her space. I would have said buy her flowers but not everyone gets it here. So I will say buy flowers AND chocolate. You can’t go wrong that way. Even if she throws out the flowers, she’ll eat the chocolate. Be respectful. Ask her before you do anything,  understand her context. You are in her country, not yours.

You must understand If she’s not comfortable with open displays of affection,  this is normal. If she lives alone, respect her space. If she lives with family, respect her family, that’s how we do things here. If you are walking and someone disrespects her, or talks to you like you are standing alone, you must stand up for her and remind them that you ARE with someone you care about. Ok? Good!

White woman/black man
When people see a black man with a white woman, they think: ‘Sharp guy has got a trophy.’ By the way ‘Sharp guy’= scam artist. So you must be careful women.

Again I must say, I am not talking  to those women who believe the rumour that all Nigerian men are endowed with magic in their pants and are desperate to sample as many as they can. This is not an article on sex tourism. You are on your own if you need that. I am talking to decent, straight, white women looking for love as equal partners in a relationship.

Ehen. I begin with the warning: most Nigerian men dole out compliments without even thinking of it. Half the time they don’t mean it. Compliments mean little. No, the fact that he always loves your eyes or thinks your shoes are lovely or wonders where you got that gorgeous dress does NOT mean he’s madly in love with you. It just means he’s a man, with eyes that can see, looking at you.

Don’t get excited. Keep your skirt on. Most men will be nice and go out of their way for a pretty white girl like you.

Just because he offers you to run an errand for you right after complaining to his colleague that he has no fuel or gives you his sparkling white handkerchief  to wipe your shoes does not mean he wants to spend the rest of his miserable adult life with you.

If you are walking and he’s showing you off, stopping to say hello to everyone, it’s a bad sign. Run. You are like a gold wristwatch to him. If he changes his accent when he’s talking to you, run. He’s fake. If he is regularly taking money from you (even when you are the one offering or if he accepts reluctantly), RUN!!! He’s a damn gold digger.  If he doesn’t seem to have any determinable source of income, something you can verify, run.

Again, I wish my company was up and running, I would have offered you consultancy services at a discounted rate. But never mind, you have this free article. Thank my editor (even though he doesn’t pay me).

Gay guy
Ehen, now to you my gay friends. Most things that apply to straight people apply to you with a few peculiarities that I will point out.

That a man, especially young man engages in gay sex does not mean he is gay. Increasingly, our boys are doing the thing for money. The guy probably has a girlfriend somewhere. Here is where you need your underground gay friends, they can tell you if a guy is scamming you.

And no, just because I call them underground doesn’t mean they are hard to find. There are regular discreet gigs where you can meet reliable guys. And please, try not to out your friends. Once they discover the black guy you are always hanging out with doesn’t work with or for you, and they know you are gay, the rumours will start. In the name of whatever you believe in, keep it down. Out of the public eye as much as you can. We keep our business private here. By private I mean secret. You don’t want to run them out of town or disgrace their family. Not everyone has the boldness of Bisi Alimi. Eh? You want contacts? Please don’t put me in trouble o, talk to my editor.

Gay girl
You are the luckiest of the gay lot. Not because it is easy to find a partner but because when you find one (same rules please) you can pretty much hang out without raising suspicion. So once you have found that girl, who is not using you to leave this country or pay her bills, don’t go out of your way to out her by exceeding the acceptable ‘public touchy-feely quota’ which our culture graciously allocates to straight girls.

Keep it down, and for your own sake, don’t be quick to offer overseas vacations just because you think you are in love. As we say here, ‘Shine your eyes’. Be cautious. For a background check, I suggest your  Nigerian gay guy friend. He will know who to ask.

And please remember all, play safe if you need to play because as much as we don’t want you getting anything here, we don’t want you spreading stuff either.

The Nigerian cupid is a black, chubby baby with tribal marks and a naughty wink. Complicated, but sweet if you understand the social constraints within which he operates. With patience and plenty common sense (common sense with a capital N) you will find love.

Who knows, you just might make a home here.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A FOREIGNERS GUIDE TO DRIVING IN NIGERIA

(Reproduced for archival purposes)
 
How God has blessed you since you came to Nigeria! You have settled in, you know the local joints, which bars sell point-and-kill catfish and which bars don’t. Even though you swore you were a vegetarian, you have tasted the goat head meal we call ‘Isi Ewu’ - that messy mound of smashed goat skull, flesh and eyes. It was more spicy than you ever imagined, but you endured it, even took a photo for your friends back home and put it on your Facebook profile to prove you were blending with the Africans. This place is growing on you. Now you need to buy a car and drive it yourself, to know the city better. You have driven in the worst parts of New York, so Abuja can’t be that bad. 

First thing you need is a licence. Don’t sweat. It is not that hard. All you need is money. Don’t be prudish and insist on following the normal process of a driving test to make sure you can actually drive, vision test- to make sure those blue or green eyes of yours actually work, and all the other formalities. Believe me, no Nigerian has ever done a driver’s test. So listen.

There will be that guy who will be smiling at you more than necessary, hanging around like your owe him something when you get to the licence office. He is the guy that can get you the licence. Just a few thousand on top of the five thousand regular fee, will do the magic. He will even bring the forms to your office if you want, for your finger prints. Then he will tell you to follow him for the photo capture. Don’t mind if it is after office hours. Your licence will be genuine. You can get it in a few days if you ‘mobilise’ the guy enough.
Now you have hit the road. If you think all the traffic lights are working then you have not been in Nigeria long enough. Our traffic lights come on only on two occasions: when they are brand new and on special occasions, like when the President is visiting with some foreign dignitary. So watch to see if it’s on or off.
At intersections where there are no traffic lights, no one has the right of way- the rule is ‘first come, first pass’. Honk wildly just in case some drunk or blind fellow is speeding past. In fact honk wildly always, we have no laws against honking. Honk when you are overtaking, or even when you are just tired or irritated. It has been proven to relieve Nigerian stress.

You will see the roads sometimes painted with white lines to signify lanes. They mean nothing in this country. They are cosmetic, to make the roads look beautiful like the ones in foreign movies. Swerve from lane to lane as you please especially when the guy ahead of you is driving like a snail.  Sometimes you can create your own lane especially when there is a lot of traffic. The side walk is not for walking, you can drive on it to beat traffic. Just don’t be the first to do it. There will always be that first guy who goes off the road because he is just too cool to wait. Follow that guy. Now that you have passed the 10 or so cars in front of you, you need to get back on the road. Wind your glass down and put your hand out and look in the eye of the guy on the road where you want to enter. Raise your hand and implore with your eyes for him to let you enter in front of him. He will look at you. You are white. He will pity you and let you get back on the road. Don’t despair though if there is that stubborn fellow who will ignore you. There will be that woman behind him who will let you pass. Honk and wave in the air when you enter. That is how to show gratitude.

There are no speed limits in Nigeria. The rule is drive but don’t bash anyone. Learn to scream at other drivers. Learn to use your open five fingers in someone’s direction, to say ‘Your father!’ when someone has just tried to run you off the road. It will make you feel better. Learn road cuss words like, ‘Yeye’, ‘Oloshi’, ‘Ewu’ or the very efficient ‘God punish you.’ You will need it.

Now, in your country you have rubbish like breathalyser tests for driving under the influence of alcohol. That is strange to us. No policeman has heard of that here. Our culture permits drinking and driving. You can drink all you want as long as you reach home in one piece. If a policeman stops you, be afraid only if you do not have change to give him. When you actually beat the traffic lights and you are stopped by those guys in dreary orange uniforms, they will ask you to park and let them in. Don’t let them into your car, they will only waste your time. This is where some spare change and Nigerian pidgin will save you. Call him, ‘Officer’, in the most Nigerian accent you can manage. Smile. Don’t appear afraid- like dogs they can sense fear. Greet him. Ask him how work is, they family. Ignore the huge frown on his face, it is for show. He will talk big about arresting you and all that. Don’t give in immediately. Tell him, ‘Bros, make we settle now.’ He might be stubborn at first but it will work wonders. His heart will soften at the prospect of some extra money to augment his miserable salary. 

Most people have no proper vehicle insurance in Nigeria, so if someone bashes your car, insist on cash or if you have the time, that they take you to their mechanic. Otherwise just go fix your car by yourself. Never, I repeat, Never allow the police to get involved. They will complicate matters and you will only waste your time and lose money in the process. 

At night, nobody is arrested for traffic violations. The only cops on the road are patrol cops. They don’t care about your driving. 

You can park by the side of the road without consequence. Nobody cares.

Your choice of a country without speeding tickets or DUI charges is wise. God be with you as you discover the hidden wisdom on our roads.

A FOREIGNERS GUIDE TO HOLDING MEETINGS IN NIGERIA

(Reproduced for archival purposes)

So, you made it out of the visa office. Congratulations! I rejoice with you. You crossed our borders even though someone deliberately forgot to mention the yellow fever certificate. And after standing for a long while you finally understood what the man at the airport meant when he said you needed to show 'gratitude' for not making you go and take a yellow fever shot. You wish you had small change, but issokay, you are in and that is all that matters.

Now, whatever your business, one of the first things you will do is hold a meeting. Nothing can be done by email or phone. There has to be a meeting. Sometimes there will be a meeting to set the agenda for the next meeting. We love meetings; this is the only time we get to run away from our boring desks and do something really exciting. You can’t avoid it. So listen closely.

Arrive just in time or fashionably late, a few minutes. Coming too early means you are desperate or have nothing else to do. Even if this is the case with you, don’t show it. If you are white especially they will not be offended. In fact, they will make excuses for you and apologise on behalf of the traffic, the bad roads, the distance; all while they are shaking you vigorously and smiling gratefully. Appear very busy otherwise they will spend fifteen minutes doing chit-chat asking about your country and if you are married or how many children you have. If you are looking for a favour however, indulge your host. If it is a government meeting with any one above the level of a senior civil servant, cancel all other appointments for that day. If you like reading, take a big book. The boss might saunter in a full hour after the set time. This is normal. He will apologise profusely. Accept it with a smile.

Do not appear shocked depending on where you are, when someone suggests that the meeting begins with an opening prayer. We love opening prayers. God is our father and we are His children. Say amen if you can; if not pretend to bow your head. If you can stomach it, enjoy our colourful prayers especially if the Christian ones, as they ‘commit’ the meeting into the hands of Jesus. It is very important. The Muslim ones will be mostly in Arabic so you won’t need to bother. Just know that somehow God will be in that meeting.
When the meeting finally begins, don’t get irritated if after the boss asks everyone to turn their phone ringers off, someone’s phone starts ringing loudly. Not even if the owner of the phone pretends for the first five seconds that it is not his. This is normal. They do not mean to be rude. It’s just that he has two or three phones and he thought the instruction meant turn only one ringer off.

You must learn to fall in love with our preambles and tautologies and use of explosive tri-syllabic words. So when one is called to speak he will first thank the moderator for giving him the chance to speak followed by general observations on how the meeting is quite important and why it is a rare privilege to be there. We love words like ‘singular honour’ and ‘rare privilege’. You should love them too. It is perfectly normal to say that you are 'happy' and 'pleased' or that something is 'essential' and 'important'.

Be prepared to hear the same comments repeated by almost everyone in the room. Usually after the first person has made a comment, relax and play a mental game of how many people can repeat what he said.  Otherwise you may burst an artery. The repetitions will usually begin with ‘just as the last speaker said’ or ‘I totally agree with what the last speaker said’, or my personal favourite ‘I want to completely align myself with the last speaker.’ Don’t be fooled into joy when suddenly someone begins by saying ‘I don’t want to repeat what everyone has said.’ This will quickly be followed by a ‘but’, after which he or she will promptly just that- repeat what everyone has said. This is a cultural thing- we like emphasis just so you don’t miss the point.

After all the repetitions and winding speeches, little will be achieved and you may have to adjourn until another day. Be patient. Nothing ends in one meeting in Nigeria. But don’t run off yet. There has to be a closing prayer. God must be thanked for a successful meeting; after all, any of a hundred tragedies could have happened from someday dying mysteriously to the building collapsing on you. So be patient while they thank God.

Slowly you will get used to it and you will enjoy holding meetings with the people of this great country.

HOW TO BE A NIGERIAN LAWYER


Life is challenging. There is a reason your poor family decided to pool resources to send you to Law School. They didn’t send you there to take the long route- serving some stingy senior lawyer or law firm for 5-10 years before you can afford to make it on your own.  I will treat the issue of stingy senior lawyers another day. 

When people ask me how it feels like to be a lawyer, I often save them from the disappointment that the truth is sure to give them; I shrug, smile and add to whatever mystery already exists in their head.
But you my faithful reader- especially you the new lawyer or law student- I will tell the truth. I want you to at least, like your banker colleagues, be able to afford to pay your own rent and buy a clean second hand car in the first to second year of your call to the Nigerian Bar.

Register your private law firm as soon as you finish and print your letter head and complimentary cards. Your cards especially should have your full and imposing title: Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. I mean a lawyer knows that’s all hot air but to a non-lawyer it makes you seem like you learnt under Saint Paul himself and have your office right in the Supreme Court. Hustling must start immediately whether you work in a law firm or not.

Learn how to eavesdrop on people’s conversation for any possible legal services they may need. Somebody’s wife was slapped. Apologize for butting in, then quickly inform them that under our legal system, that is a crime called assault. You are a lawyer and you can help them. By help you mean take their money. If they look at you funny, whip out your card. They will see that full title which is a killer. Suddenly you will appear more intelligent, more important. 

When you walk into a big store, don’t just buy stuff and leave. If you can see the manager, ask if they have registered their business with the Corporate Affairs Commission. Company registration is a no-brainer. Yes serious lawyers snub it and all but what do you care? Offer to register their business for less than what your colleagues charge. The whole idea is turn over. If you have many companies to register at the same time, it won’t matter that you are charging less (and spoiling business for other hustling lawyers).

You must never ignore police stations. There is always money to be made there. Anyone who calls you a charge and bail lawyer, God will judge them harshly.  Take keen interest in the affairs of your neighbors. There is always someone dragging someone to the police station or someone being arrested for something.  Don’t wait until you are called. Go there and offer your services. Trouble is your business. 

The art of securing bail is one that only the streetwise can handle.  No one will teach you that in school.  They teach you crap like ‘bail is free’ and ‘no one must be held for more than 24 hours without charge’. Bah! The Police in Nigeria don’t care what you’ve been taught, in fact, the more legal you get, the more complicated things get for your prospective client. And trust me there is nothing worse than messing up a neighbor’s case.  You don’t want to be sneaking into your own neighborhood at odd hours. I have only, in my four years of legal practice, secured one free bail. And that was only because the DPO was on the Investigating Police Officer’s (IPO) case for something else. I cashed in on his confusion and by the time he realized I was not going to give him any money, my client had been released and bond papers signed. He however took me to the side and gave me a good talking to: ‘na you make your client no give us anything abi? Ok! Ok! Ok!’

Moral of the story?  1. Common sense is more useful than law inside a Police Station. 2. You have no friends inside a Police Station. 3. Bail is hardly ever free.

You must learn how to negotiate with the Investigating Police Officer (IPO), firmly, respectfully and pragmatically. Learn this and you will become a hot cake in your community, making so much money that you won’t care if anyone calls you charge and bail.

To avoid the stereotypical look of the struggling Nigerian Lawyer- shirts that were once white, shoe soles eaten to a 45 degree angle, a heavy tattered bag containing everything from your wig and gown to dozens of company registration forms and affidavit forms- you need to also be an estate agent. You must befriend as many landlords as you can so that you will have signboards reading ‘TO LET’ on as many empty houses as possible. 

Look for people trying to sell houses or land and help them aggressively market it. You never know which 10% commission will take you permanently out of poverty. When you have sold that expensive house and ride home in a Range Rover Sport (with NBA stickers in front and behind) no one will bother if you ever go to court or not. Your neighbors will hail you as you drive past: ‘Barristaa!’ 

It is no surprise that struggling lawyers are the most hated in their families. The reason is simple. After supporting you morally and otherwise to become a lawyer, the least they expect from you is to make reasonable contributions at family events and send money into their accounts when they call you.  

God forbid that you become a struggling Nigerian lawyer. Follow my advice and your family and neighbors will think you are the best thing since point-and-kill. As always, God bless your hustle.

Friday, May 4, 2012

HOW TO GET ASYLUM


Nigeria is hard, hard place to live. This is not subject to debate. Everything has broken down. Roads, hospitals, schools, electricity, industries, security, water supply. Some people are born rugged. They can stay here and try to rough it out. But not you. You refuse to hustle, marry and raise kids here in the same cycle of hopelessness. 

You are not looking for a Visa so that when you get there, you disappear. That is too much stress. Plus if you are a writer or artist, it will become impossible to continue your career in public. Who wants that- running from oyibo police all your life? It is important for you that everything is legally done. You need to apply for asylum. 

Now I know that you do not fit into any of the popular categories. Don’t worry. My job is to help coach you until you fit into one of the asylum categories for the US or UK. 

CATEGORY ONE: PERSECUTION BECAUSE OF RACE

This one is hard because essentially we are one race in Nigeria. We are not like South Africa where they are 12 different colours. Don’t go and mess up the application by ticking this one. In law foolishness is not an excuse.

CATEGORY TWO: PERSECUTION BECAUSE OF GENDER IDENTITY 

This one is easy especially if you are an effeminate man (or can act like it). But if you are a big muscular man complete with a healthy male organ, it is likely that the US Embassy people will look at you and say this one na 419. Get a Naija doctor in the US to write a report saying you are transgender or something like that. A woman trapped in a man’s body. Because of it, they want to kill you in Nigeria. You will add that you have suffered untold emotional turmoil because of this. Your family has abandoned you and if they let you go back, someone will shoot you or stab you with a poisoned knife outside your home.  You have even got death threats by email where they called you many bad names. We can arrange the emails.  Cry plenty snotty tears at the interview.  

Related to this is persecution because of sexual orientation. Say that you have liked boys since you were a little boy. To prepare the background for this (you know how these oyibo people like background checks) try to mingle with the gay community before then.  If there are any events or rallies for gay people, attend and be in the line of fire of the camera men. Appearing in a magazine photo with a placard that reads, ‘Gays are Human Too’ is sure to score you points with the US or UK embassy. Get a fake partner who can help in this whole thing. Someone reliable. Let the gay community be able to identify you as one of them. Then attend your asylum interview with your gay partner. Get a letter from the leaders of the gay community (who would have previously met you). Before long you will be holding the asylum papers in your hand. 

CATEGORY THREE: PERSECUTION BECAUSE OF RELIGION

Boko Haram is going to make this one very popular. The way they are going, bombing with reckless abandon and threatening people, all you need is for your name to fall into one of their lists. How? Easy! Write plenty articles directly insulting them in national dailies. Call them enemies of the state. Say that they should be hunted down and stamped out. Those guys read newspapers, believe me. They will see it. They will underline your name and google you. In a Youtube video they will call your name and say that if they catch you, you are finished. Once they do this, Gbam! We have all we need for the asylum application. Tell the US or UK embassy that your blood will be on their hands if they send you back. They don’t like blood on their hands, especially Europeans. Can’t you see how they are still pampering the Jews because of what one European leader did nearly 70 years ago? 

CATEGORY FOUR: PERSECUTION BECAUSE OF MEMBERSHIP IN A PARTICULAR SOCIAL GROUP, OR POLITICAL OPINION.

You know for this one we need to pray that the president signs that anti-gay bill into law. That law, kai, it is laden with asylum pre-qualifications. First, the law prescribes a 10 year sentence for anyone who registers operates or participates in a gay society club or organization. So you can start a ‘Naija gays’ yahoo group, an organization that helps gay people or a gay men’s prayer group. Then you show the people in America that see, if they let you go back, you will land in jail for 10 years. Let them know what it means to be in Nigerian jail. It is a death sentence. I mean even Clifford Orji, the human flesh eater went mad in prison recently.  So if a hardened person of already doubtful sanity can go bunkers in Nigerian jail, ha, fragile you will die there. Explain this to them, with tears in your eyes. They will see your point and grant you asylum. 

Follow these guidelines and you will be living freely in America from where you can send monetary gifts to me via Western Union. Good luck.