Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On the pathway to care: Schizophrenia and social-cultural fallacies


Schizophrenia only affects 1 to 1.5% of the general population (in Lagos). The only thing is that it has a devastating effect that tends to run a deteriorating course in the life of the people concern.”

Most misleading views about mental disorder are rooted in social-cultural beliefs. As a result, especially in this part of the world, most people suffering from mental illness experience dehumanizing conditions before they are eventually taken to a Psychiatric Hospital for treatment.

Schizophrenia, one of the major mental disorders, is commonly misunderstood to be split/personality disorder. In a more critical stage, people suffering from it are regarded as “possessed” by demons or witchcraft. In this chat about the prevalence of mental illness in Lagos, Dr. Olugbenga Owoeye and Dr. Richard Ademola Adebayo, both consultant Psychiatrists and a Clinical Psychologists at Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, demystify some of the social-cultural fallacies associated with Schizophrenia. They also elucidates on some of the cultural factors that delay or limit the treatment of mental disorder and recommend ways to better curb the illness.


According to Dr. Olugbenga Owoeye, “Schizophrenia is one of the major Psychiatric disorders. It is a disorder of the mind. But in a layman’s definition, it is like a Psychological condition in form of a shattered mind. Just like how a shattered glass looks. It is a chronic recurrent major psychiatric condition that tends to deteriorate with time. As a result of which the individual will not be able to function socially and emotionally.


There are different types of Schizophrenia. There is the paranoid Schizophrenia, which is the commonest and affects people in their 20s and 30s; Epiphrenic Schizophrenia and the simple Schizophrenia. “With these ones, if you are not a professional Psychiatrist you may not know that they are sick. The only sign is that they may not be socially active but in their dressing they look normal and make no trouble with anyone. But they lack the ability to move up in life, they lack motivation, they refuse to associate with people and are unable to function socially and occupationally. They may not aspire to set up their own family, they just eat and live.” Said Owoeye. Another type is the Catatonic Schizophrenia. “Those are the ones that may be reckless or aggressive and hyperactive on one hand and be socially withdrawn and mute on the other hand.”

Explaining some of the factors that instigate such conditions or precipitate mental illness, Owoeye categorized them as Predisposing factors, Precipitating factors and the Perpetuating factors.

“The Predisposing factors are factors operating in the early life of the individual that tend to make the individual vulnerable to the development of a major mental disorder. For example, during pregnancy a mother may fall ill, suffer from malnutrition or the child might suffer some injury or infectious at childbirth. Also, early in life, the person may have suffered from a major illness like severe infections either due to virus or bacteria infection. These could be a major access to the brain. Aside those, other Psychological factors can also lead to Schizophrenia, such as someone not having any Parental attachment or closeness early in life. Schizophrenia can also be transferred from Parents to Offspring, that is to say that it is also hereditary.

When you talk about the Precipitating factors, these are factors operating in the life of individual around the time that the illness started and thus appeared to have caused it or precipitated it, making the person mentally vulnerable. This varies from Physical condition to social situations.

Finally, we also have the Perpetuating factors. These are factors that help to maintain the illness that will not allow the person fully recover even after treatment. For example, where you have a family that is too emotionally over-involved with the individual. Or those families that run critical comment that discourages the person suffering from Schizophrenia from taking medication. Also, when educated individuals find out the extent of the illness, they feel demoralized and become socially withdrawn. As a result, the illness perpetuates further.”


Signs and Symptoms…
“The major signs and symptoms of this illness vary. But the major one is that the individual will start experiencing auditory hallucination, hearing voices of unseen people either discussing him or her in a third-person among themselves or commanding the person on what to do.

They may have strong paranoid delusions. For example, they may believe the family member is responsible for their problem or believe they own the whole world and become so grandeur. Apart from that, they may also execute some bizarre behavior. Sometimes, these believe may be so bizarre that it will be difficult to comprehend. They experience a situation where their thought is being spoken aloud to them, thus causing them to believe that their thoughts, actions or plans are being made known to everybody without them informing anybody. These are the major symptoms associated with these individuals.


Treatment and medication…
"The illness can be successfully treated and managed…but most of these medications are very expensive. Some of the poor patients face the challenge of sustaining the medication and rehabilitation process. Some of them are very poor and there is a limit to which the government can subsidize these drugs. There is no Social Security System to cover them. I don’t think they are included in the National Health Insurance Scheme. Some of these conditions require a long-term treatment, which is quite expensive so their families are left to do all the running around to raise fund."


Psychotic conditions and Religion:
“When we look at the issue of religion, we must take it from the general cultural perspective. As a result of our cultural background and beliefs, it is discovered that a lot of people may not believe that the illness needs treatment. So they go to all sorts of unorthodox places like “Babalawo”, spiritual homes, Churches etc., because they believe that the illness is Spiritual, their approach to treatment is spiritual. This sometimes also contributes to the delay in treatment. But in some of these Churches, whose leaders are educated, the moment they recognize the symptom, they pray for the person and ask him/her to go for medical attention.” Owoeye said.

Meanwhile, to further expatiate on the discourse, Dr. Richard Ademola Adebayo said “We try to be holistic in our approach because we cannot isolate our believe from how we see things. Thus, we do what is called evidence base medicine. That is, medicine is not just what you practice; there must be an evidence for it.

From the cultural or religious point of view, I’m a Christian and I believe that everything that is not good is not of God. Because the Bible says that God’s thought towards us are thoughts of good and not of evil, to give us an expected end. So it means that anything that is not in line with that is not of God.

Also, knowledge comes from God. Science is not an anti-god device, science is knowledge from God but it is the wrong application that is not desirable. So if you believe science comes from God and through science we have been able to proffer solutions to problem then it will be very wrong to say in a myopic way that mental disorder is from a particular cause.

From the science point of view, the current thinking is that mental disorder can be seen from a biological and social perspective. This means that mental disorder can be genetic i.e. hereditary or socially incurred. From the cultural point of view, they see it as a curse running in that family but in reality it is the genes. Just as Down syndrome can be genetic, so also can Psychiatric disorder be inherited from the genes of parents. Other biological conditions that can manifest into mental disorder later in life include childhood infections, road traffic accident that affects the brain, the medication a pregnant woman uses that may affects the child, drug or substance use, hypertension etc.

While Psychological factors that may cause mental disorder include unemployment, broken relationship, abandonment etc., the Sociological factors include, overcrowding, traffic jam, even the economic meltdown is enough to cause mental disorder… That someone in a family has a mental disorder caused by domestic accident doesn’t mean his or her children will inherit it.”


From your experience as Psychiatrists, what are some of the social –cultural beliefs limiting the treatment of mental disorder in our society?
Dr Ademola said “People tend to read meanings to the condition of someone suffering a mental disorder and such person is often stigmatized and ostracized. Even after the person is treated or the situation is managed, the person might still be avoided by others. Unlike developed countries, in this part of the world we are still holding on tenaciously to our cultural belief. Sometimes Schizophrenic people are called witches who want to confess their evil deeds. For example, a young patient once went to a grave and said she was responsible for the death of the person. Meanwhile, the dead had long been buried before the patient was born. If not for that the people would have thought she was a witch. As part of the cultural believes, people with mental disorder are taken to various places- herbalist homes, Churches etc. Some of them are dehumanized, chained, beaten and stigmatized etc in the process of finding solutions to what they deem is spiritual. It is called pathway to care.


On this pathway to care…
“ This (Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital) is one of the largest Psychiatric Hospital in West African. Because of the stigma associated with mental disorder, people don’t usually think of this place. Pathway to care refers to the passage or process of seeking help before the person is brought to the Hospital. Because of our cultural belief, people connote causes of mental disorder as religious and call it demonic attack or spiritual curses. So the first place they go to are religious or traditional places. They shop around for solution in these places thus causing delay in medical treatment. The patient passes through all sorts of things. Some of them are deprived of food, made to undergo vigil and even sexually abused before they are eventually brought to Hospital for treatment. But with enlightenment now, a lot of people come to the hospital directly, to avoid unnecessary delay in treatment, which might lead to prolong recovery.


How can we eradicate such misconceptions?
“That is why we are telling our people that the only thing that is permanent in life is change. We need to change from our perspective of being myopic. We shouldn’t just think that anyone that is having a particular problem must be addressed from the religious point of view. We thank God that a lot of patients have come to this place and they have recovered. The medication and mode of treatment we use is universal. Without anyone stigmatizing them, these people return home to live normally and fulfill their destiny.”


Advice for religious leaders:
“They should not see Psychiatric conditions as being caused by demons because there are others causes. Even if they are caused by demons, they can still benefit from our treatment. Let them do the praying aspect but they must send the patients to us on time. While the patient is in Hospital, they can come here and pray with them. God is not limited by any barrier or distance. We don’t discourage our patients from going to churches. Unfortunately, we have some Pastors who will tell patients not to take treatment. They tell them to exercise their faith. But the same Bible tells us that faith without work is dead. The work aspect is for patient to take treatment, listen to doctors etc. We are not working against Pastors or religious leaders; we should have a meeting point. Ultimately, God is the healer and not man.”


Some other challenges most Psychiatrists face in curbing the trend…
Dr. Owoeye: The major challenge we face right now is the lack of adequate infrastructure to manage the people. Our Psychiatric facilities are not adequate. We do not have rehabilitation home for them, Vocational center is not adequate and in the area of personnel, we do not have enough of the personnel to take care of the patients. The few we have need training and re-training. All these need government intervention. There are some of these patients who cannot live in the community; there is need for accommodation for such people. If we have such, those people you see living under the bridge or walking naked along the road won’t be there. They are Schizophrenics, the Epiphrenic type, which are those ones that hoard rubbish. So the challenges we face are in the area of infrastructure, personnel and facilities/equipment.


The challenges listed above are more of government’s responsibilities. Is there anything the public can do to support?
“Yes. The Non-Governmental Organizations can help by establishing these foster homes…They can encourage community participation in the management of these patients in their rehabilitation back into the community. In some of the Psychiatric Hospitals where they lack one or two things, they can come up with a Structure to help the Psychiatric home; individuals can also do that to help.”


Some basic things people need to do to remain mentally healthy:
“First, do not go beyond limit- don’t bite more than you can chew. Also, you must abstain from drugs and alcohol. Also, you must have an easygoing attitude and be able to tolerate others to avoid bitterness and grudges. ...learn how to be content with whatever God has given... Don’t say because somebody is riding a Jet then you must ride a Jet overnight. Most importantly, you must try to avoid stressful situations. Although this may not be possible because you need some degree of stress to make it in life but one must try as much as possible to avoid unnecessary stress. By so doing, you can remain mentally healthy and live a fulfilling life.


Stay mentally healthy! And support those going through any form of mental illness by directing them to the right pathway to care!

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Beach At Your Door-step (Updated)



Many rightly refer to Lagos as the city that never sleeps. Characterized by over population, noise, business hub, cultural diversity etc. the city is most celebrated for its liveliness and hot spots which distinguishes it from other cities in Nigeria. Among the many features that can only be found in one of the most populous cities in the world, the Beach remains the most outstanding.

Bar Beach, Kuramo Beach, Lekki Beach, Alpha Beach, Eleko Beach, Akodo Beach, Badagry Beach, Agaja Beach, Ilashe Beach, Whispering badagry beach 300x225 CPA Commentary: The Beach at your door stepPalms, Lighthouse Beach, Atlas Cove, Ogogoro Island and Tarkwa Bay are some of the private and public Beaches in Lagos (some of them are not so enticing anymore though…).

These Beaches serve as a good spot where Lagosians and Tourists let their hair down and feel the earth under their feet. They turnout in tens on weekdays and in hundreds on weekends, but during festive holidays or other public holidays the place is besieged by both rich and poor itching for an opportunity to bask in the glory of nature. You will see lovers strolling on the white sand, families sitting under the Palm trees with their picnic basket, youths swimming in the wave of the calm ocean or religious groups/spiritualists offering sacrifice/sun worshiping (in some of the public Beach).

Uniquely located in different parts of Lagos, each Beach appeal to a varied audience- For example, the Kuramo (named after a small lake which lies behind it), Eleko Beach and Tarkwa Bay are often patronized by the masses while Ilashe and Whispering Palms (a holiday resort near Badagry) are exclusive Beach resort accessible only to those who can afford it.

Tarkwa Bay CPA Commentary: The Beach at your door stepTarkwa Bay, a sheltered Beach located at the entrance of Lagos Port is one of the best public beaches in Lagos. It is easily accessible by boat from Tarzan Jetty at Maroko or through Falomo Bridge on Victoria Island. Many love Tarkwa Bay because of its calm aura, which makes it possible for children to swim. Also, the white sand is not as coarse as of other Beaches, thus people find it more comfortable to walk or lie on.

Like Tarkwa Bay, Lekki Beach is a popular Beach on the Island. It is accessible through the Lekki-Epe Expressway, around Ilasan Housing Estate. The Beach has small huts/shelter made of palm fronds that are available for hire (at meager price) by tourists and other visitors.

Meanwhile, another serene Beach for Lagosians who love to live big in an exclusive environment is the Halem Sea Side Resort on Kuramo Beach or Ikaare Island or Satellite Town. Like Ilashe and Agaja Beach, this exclusive Beach resort is open to people looking for a place to take-off for a short vacation while maintaining a sense of community feel.

Farther away from the Island and the buzzing of the metropolis is the Badagry Beach. People who visit the Badagry Heritage Museum or Slave Port often maximize their trip by heading down to this famous Beach. The horse ride, fresh-looking coconut begging to be eaten, not-so-clean but calm atmosphere makes it an attractive place to unwind.

But oh! I must warn you though… Some of the Beaches currently need a serious makeover. Like some public infrastructures in Nigeria, some of the public Beaches are becoming a little unattractive. I mean, the place is sometimes left to the care of domineering “touts” and petty traders. To walk into the place, one has to go through the loud and bossy street urchins who demand ridiculous amount for entrance fees, depending on your demeanor or outward appearance. In the early hours of the morning or late at night, spiritualists and other religious “consultants” take over the public space. They are seen carrying out different sacrifices and prayers to the god of the sea, for people who consult them. But if you can look beyond these inadequacies, the public beach is a good spot to hangout, socially with friends. And help the government and those in charge make the beach more visit-able for others by cleaning up after your “celebration.” As the saying goes, “be the change you want to see in the world.” Or better still, create the change you want to see on the Beach- don’t loiter, don’t dump dirts or leave your space untidy, avoid patronizing or engaging the services of touts, street urchins and prostitutes, report any suspicious behavior to the right authorities immediately, etc.

In terms of proximity, Bar Beach and Kuramo Beach are located at the heart of business in Victoria Island. However, Lekki Beach, Eleko Beach and Akodo Beach are located around the Lekki Environ. Still on the Island, Tarkwa Bay, Halem Sea side resort, Lighthouse Beach, Ogogoro Island and Atlas Cove are closely knitted around the Port entrance. The whispering Palms Beach and Holiday resort, Badagry Beach and Suntan Beach are all located in Badagry. But no matter where you reside in Lagos, one of these Beaches are near you, if not at your door step! So maximize the upcoming holiday season, let your hair down and feel the earth under your feet at the Beach!

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Young Nigerian bags the Rolex Young Laureate Award 2010


Victoria Pam, a Parasitologist from Jos, Pleteau State is one of the 27 finalists, 2010 Young Laureates Programme. Mrs. Pam who is currently a Ph.D student serves as a researcher and lecturer in Parasitology, Entomology, cell biology and research methodology at the National Veterinary Research Institute in Jos. She applied for the 2010 Rolex Awards to establish a permanent molecular biology laboratory in the National Veterinary Research Institute facilities to screen parasites infections and implement awareness campaigns about prevention and control measures. For her, educating the local community is key to success and to sustainable change. Although she did not get the $50, 000 award, Pam said she was still expectant. Her expectation for the event is to network, get advices from the jury and research on future funding opportunities for her project.

Like Pam, 29 years old Preven Chetty, a graduate from University of KwaZulu-Natal with a degree in Geography and environmental management was also one of the 27 finalists. As a child, Chetty was fascinated by rivers in South Africa. He applied for a Rolex Award to produce a socio-visual collage about the Umgeni River, which flows 225 kilometers from the mountains to the Indian ocean on South Africa’s east coast. His aim is to highlight the importance of rivers and put the issue of water conservation on the world stage. The two finalists, like the others are currently focused on strengthening their project ideas in order to give them better chances of winning next year.

The winners, five Young Laureates- Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, Nigeria; Bruktawit Tigabu, Ethiopia; Piyush Tewari, India; Reese Fernandez, Philippines; and Jacob Colker, United States were honored the Rolex Learning Center at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Geneva on November 11.


An Era of Generosity

Polymath Brian Eno, the British record producer, composer, singer, multimedia artist and a noted technological innovator, was the keynote speaker at the award ceremony. Long concerned with the future of society and the global environment, he congratulated the winners and encouraged everyone to imbibe the culture of altruism. According to him, we are now in an era of generosity.


The Awards ceremony which took place between November 10 to 12, at the new Rolex Learning Center at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), one of Europe’s leading science and technology universities had in attendance some of the world’s foremost scientists, explorers and environmentalists who converged to celebrate winners of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise: Young Laureates Programme. Programme seeks to foster a spirit of enterprise in the next generation with innovative projects and encourage knowledge exchange between older and younger generation.


Young Laureates Pitch

The five Young Laureates, all aged between 25 and 30 for the first time, explained their projects to the public- a diverse international participants and students who converged at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) during Venture Ideas at EPFL: Entrepreneurs’ Journey with Impact session. Ventures Ideas is an initiative for promoting innovation at EPFL and stimulating entrepreneurship among students.

Their projects, which range from transforming volunteering for the 21st century to enabling impoverished women to create eco-­ethical fashion goods, from developing interactive radio in order to promote sustainable farming, to training volunteers to provide rapid care to road accident victims and developing TV programmes to improve children’s health, all had the innovative use of technology in common.


Nnaemeka work with farmers in rural Imo State. Through his interactive, mobile radio network facilitated by Small Holders Foundation, hundreds of thousands of rural listeners receive and exchange information on sustainable farming practices and health issues. Bruktawit Tigabu who has recorded 26 episodes of “Tsehai Loves Learning” broadcasted to about 2.6 million children, is very passionate about disseminating educational programmes through the Mass Media. Jacob Colker, is 27 years old. His project is focused on recruiting “Micro-volunteers”, such as Smartphone users to become volunteers by donating spare minutes to charitable, scientific and community organizations. From the Philippines, 25 years old Reese Fernandez won the 2010 Rolex Awards to expand the impact of her Project “Rag2Riches” that aims to improve the lives of women in Manila’s Payatas Waste dump. Rag2Riches is set to “establish an innovation centre to assist impoverished women to earn a decent wage by creating ‘eco-ethical, elegant’ products”. Piyush Tewari from India is 29 years old. His project, SaveLIFE Foundation (SLF) train a network of police officers and volunteers to provide rapid medical care to road accident victims in Delhi. So far, they have trained over 2,000 Dehli Police officers and 300 community volunteers.

Rolex used the opportunity to showcase both the winners and their visionary projects and to foster intellectual exchange between them and some of the best thinkers from Switzerland and abroad. ”Our ultimate goal is to encourage an enterprising spirit among under- 30s worldwide and to stimulate innovation in the region in order to help ensure a better future for the next generation.” said Rebecca Irvin, head of the Rolex Institute, the company’s philanthropic and educational arm.


Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu

Growing up in an agriculture-oriented environment in Nigeria, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu spent his after-school hours raising poultry and cattle. After high school, as he participated in youth and citizens’ associations helping farmers, Ikegwuonu quickly became aware that the rural community had little access to information about farming practices and environmental issues. In 2003, he founded the Smallholders Foundation to provide the rural community with information – via the radio – on contemporary agricultural techniques and environmental conservation. Ikegwuonu, who has a bachelor of arts in history and international studies and a master’s degree in cooperation and development, is becoming known as a change-maker who fights poverty using new interactive technology.


His Project:

Ikegwuonu wants to build on the achievements of his Smallholders Foundation – which is already broadcasting 10 hours daily to 250,000 listeners on Smallholders Farmers Rural Radio – by establishing a communications network reaching 3.5 million farmers in almost 5,000 villages in his own region, Imo State, in south-east Nigeria. Not only will farmers receive advice on a wide range of topics – from sustainable farming practices to HIV/AIDs and opening and running a bank account – they will also be able to contribute information, thanks to interactive mobile radios, known as AIR devices. These small, solar-powered machines allow listeners to send voice messages, free of charge, to radio stations, which can, in turn, broadcast them. Imo State’s farmers will have a platform to share experiences, ask questions and receive answers in their own language. Ikegwuonu’s long-term ambition is to extend the service to other regions in Nigeria.

Sharing his experience on how he felt when he got the news that he won the Rolex Young Laureates award, Nnaemeka said “I was a bit surprise because there were other young people with so much brilliant ideas. I was surprised not because we are good but because it was another recognition of our relentless effort to promote our agricultural development.” His advice to young people aspiring to initiative their ideas, he said “You can do what ever you want to do. It does not come easy. There are people who will discourage you but come one, pursue your dreams, you will achieve it.”

Giving an example of how SmallHolders foundation has impacted farmers in Imo state, Nnaemeka said “There is what we call rain water harvesting. Rain-water harvesting is a an age-long indigenous practice. It means during the raining season, we conserve the rain. But the practice has been abandoned over the years. We started doing a radio programme that educates farmers on the importance of rainwater harvesting.
Not because they need to harvest rainwater but because there is an agricultural benefit that comes with rain water harvesting…such as, when you conserve water during raining season, you use it to plant crops during dry season…instead of you relying on one season farming of vegetable, you can do two season farming and make money from it.”


Bruktawit Tigabu

Bruktawit Tigabu began her professional career as a primary school teacher in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Determined to reduce child mortality rates in her country, she looked for ways to educate children on health matters. In 2005, with her husband, Tigabu set up Whiz Kids Workshop. Working from their living room, using sock puppets, computer graphics and their own voices, they began producing “Tsehai Loves Learning”, a television programme about a young, female giraffe, named Tsehai, which covers many health-related issues. Twenty-six episodes of this highly successful programme (in Amharic, Ethiopia’s principal language), have now been created, each one seen by an estimated 2.6 to 5 million children.


Her Project:

Bruktawit Tigabu’s project goal, listed under the Science and Health category, is to develop a health-education television programme for preschool children in Ethiopia.


For Bruktawit, an Educator-cum-Entrepreneur from Ethiopia, the three greatest resources that has continue to drive her are persistence, hardwork and passion. “I have a passion for children, which I can’t let go and I work hard for it.” She said.


A learning ceremony

As part of the interaction between the young Rolex entrepreneurs and the EPFL community, visits were organized to two of the university’s research labs: the Blue Brain Project, in order to understand brain function and dysfunction; and the Global Health Institute, created to contribute to the understanding, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. In addition, there were presentations of the university’s landmark research in areas such as health and diagnostics, and water and sustainability.

“We are honoured to co- host the ceremony and to welcome the young innovators and other Rolex guests to our campus,” said Adrienne Corboud Fumagalli, vice president of Innovation and Technology Transfer at EPFL and a member of the 2010 Young Laureates Jury. ”The EPFL wants to stimulate entrepreneurship among students, and the Rolex Young Laureates Programme is a great match for us.”


Rolex Young Laureates Programme

An expansion of the long- standing Rolex Awards for Enterprise, the Young Laureates Programme, launched in January 2009, honours men and women between the ages of 18 and 30 with inventive ideas to solve tomorrow’s challenges in science and health, applied technology, exploration, the environment and cultural preservation. Each Young Laureate receives US$50,000 over the course of two years, giving the winners time to focus on their pioneering projects and move forward in implementing them.


The fourteenth Rolex Laureate Award launched the 1st Young Laureates:

Since the inception of the Award in 1976, this was the first time the event was being hosted in Switzerland. Below is more information about the five young laureates honored:


Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, 27, Nigeria – intends to boost the living standards of millions of Nigerian farmers through his interactive, mobile radio network. Hundreds of thousands of rural listeners are already receiving and exchanging information on sustainable farming practices and health issues.


Jacob Colker, 27, United States – is changing the way people get involved in community service. His internet-based programme allows volunteers to use their smartphones to donate spare minutes to charitable and scientific organizations.


Reese Fernandez, 25, Philippines – is committed to alleviating poverty by training people to become social entrepreneurs. Her Rags2Riches enterprise has already empowered hundreds of women to earn a living by turning scrap materials into elegant fashion accessories.


Piyush Tewari, 30, India – has set up a foundation to train a network of police officers and volunteers to respond quickly to road accidents and administer rapid medical care. By providing immediate assistance to victims, he hopes to stem the thousands of fatalities that occur on Indian roads each year.


Bruktawit Tigabu, 28, Ethiopia – is building on the success of a television programme on health that she and her husband are producing for preschool children and their parents.

Facts & Figures: Rolex Award for Enterprise

· 25,800 applications received and evaluated

· Since the Awards were founded in 1976, 110 Laureates have been selected

· 95 world-renowned experts have served as judges

· Youngest person to win a Rolex Award: 28 years old

· 47 was the average age of applicants in 2008

· Oldest person to win a Rolex Award: 74 years old

· Women made up 23% of applicants in 2008

Published in The Nation

Read Nnaemeka's interview on CP-Africa

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

One Nation, One Voice: “Message of Hope” for Nigeria @ 50


Chip Heath & Dan Heath, the authors of “Switch: How to Change things when change is hard” stated that although analytical qualities can be helpful sometimes, in situations where change is needed, too much analysis can doom the effort. So instead of sizing up the problems in Nigeria and agonizing over them, here is our “Message of Hope”, as we celebrate the golden year- 50th Independence Anniversary. There is hope in our future, and there is a future in our hope:



“Nigeria is a great country… we don't need any prophet to assure us of that. We can see God's hands in everything we do… The answer to moving Nigeria to the next level is in the hands of the youths. Look everywhere and see the power, potential and ability of the average Nigerian Youth--(and you’ll be filled with hope)” Morakinyo Olugbiji, Lagos.

“We are a people strong in will, we are a nation diverse in culture yet united in peace... I salute a blessed nation at 50” Peter Ukhurebor, Miami.

“My message to Nigerians on this occasion of the country's 50th anniversary is to keep the dreams of our founding fathers alive in our time… let's keep working towards the Nigeria of our dreams…let's keep the faith. Nigeria will be great again; Nigeria will stand tall again among nations.” Peter Akoteyan, Malaysia.

“Let us try not to make what happened to vision 2010 happen to vision 2020. I remember I was in primary school when they (the government leaders) set a target for the country to be a better place by 2010…We must start seeing ourselves as better than what we are now. Break the mental slavery. ” Douglas Imaralu, Enugu.

“Nigeria! I am very proud to be a citizen of this great country. I so much believe there is light at the end of the tunnel for us, though we are not where we should be but the good thing is that we are not where we use to be.” Bukola Idowu, Lagos.

“We should never give up on Nigeria. It has been fifty years of chequered history. Let's us join hands together to make the next fifty years the Nigeria that our children's children would definitely be proud of. Nigeria will surely be great again. It's up to Nigerians to change NIGERIA" Arukaino, Lagos.


“As we celebrate Nigeria @ 50, I want the youths to ponder on what our generation will do for Nigeria. We need to depart from the 50 years of self-propaganda and tribalism to evolve a better Nigeria. Lets join hands to build a better Nigeria” BabaTunde Rosanwo, Ukraine.

Happy 50th Independence Anniversary Nigerians! There is hope in our future; there is a future in our hope. God Bless Nigeria.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Every woman can be beautiful– CLARET ONUKOGU Miss Nigeria in America



Claret Onukogu became the fifth woman to win the Miss Nigeria in America beauty pageant, joining a lineage of Nigerian-American women who have served as ambassadors of empowerment for African women in the Diaspora. Since her reign, she has devoted her time in creating awareness on major issues facing Nigeria and Africa including health, education, violence, and crime. She also serves as a voice for women who face issues such as spousal abuse, sexual harassments, prostitution, rape and genital mutilation. In this interview with Jennifer Ehidiamen, Onukogu talks about life as a beauty queen, education and her passion

INSPIRING other women
I try to be a voice on issues that affect women and encourage other women to speak up on these issues as well. In many parts of the world, women are expected to be subordinates to men and are still being treated as subordinates. As women, we need to start being more vocal and active in the way we think. If women can stand up and start being active, some change can be incited. I will like to urge women to further their education because education is power. When you are educated, you are informed, and being well informed equips you with the necessary tools to make the best decision for yourself. I also encourage women to utilize their potential to the maximum. I want women to believe that they can achieve any goal they set for themselves regardless of what those goals are. If you want to be a soldier, model or actress, an engineer, a doctor; anything you want to do, go for your dreams and maximize your potential.

If you didn't win Miss Nigeria in America, who among the other contestants do you think would have won?
I believe everyone that I competed with were a good competition. Each and everyone of the women are very competent and beautiful. All the delegates really deserved to be in the competition. MNIA Inc is very selective about the quality of candidates that compete in the pageant. All the young women who compete excel in their respective fields and academics. I competed with women who were pursuing their Masters or Doctorate degrees in various fields. Anybody could have won this competition and I would have been happy for the person. I do believe what made me win the crown was my confidence, my boldness and my talent. I was able to show the judges my passion in the way that I presented myself.

Most inspiring African beauty queen

I have met Miss Guinea, Miss Ivory Coast; I have also met a Nigerian who is a beauty queen here in USA- Miss Black Connecticut i.e. Miss Osas Ighodaro. She will be representing Connecticut in the Miss Black USA pageant this August.

I have not really had an opportunity to engage closely with them to determine who inspires me. But from my brief interaction, I will say Osas, because she is a Nigerian woman who competed here in the US and she won. Also, we share similar interests like acting and modeling. She is an inspiration.

Perception of beauty

Beauty is in the eyes of beholder. Every culture has its definition of beauty. For me, true beauty comes from within. It comes from having a good personality, ability for a woman to carry herself in a dignified manner, being intelligent and also being eloquent. However, when it comes to physical beauty, just about any woman can make herself beautiful. There are many items available to beautify one's self. You have skin care products, make-up, hair extensions even plastic surgery. Anybody can be beautiful.

Relocation
I relocated to the US in 1998 for my high school.

Beauty and Brain

I've always been very driven especially when it comes to my education. I started school at a very young age. My academics have been going well for me. I received a scholarship to attend Armstrong Atlantic State University where I got my Bachelor's of Science in Public Health. I got my MBA and a Masters in Healthcare Administration from South University. I am currently working on my PhD in Epidemiology at Emory University.

Passion
I am very passionate about making the world a better place. I am passionate about being a humanitarian. I believe if everybody in this world was to contribute in making this world a better place, it will be bearable, there will be less crime, less violence, etc. It will just be a better place.

Getting her hands dirty as a beauty queen

I believe being a beauty queen comes with the responsibility of giving back to the community. The fact that I play an active role in AACAN makes it easy for me because I don't need to go out looking for where to do community service work. That does not mean that I do not support other organizations. In Atlanta, Georgia where I live, I have worked with the Cobb and Douglas County Community Services Board.

AACAN [African American Crisis Network] is a family-based non-profit organization that was started by my parents. Our goal with the organization was to be like United Way, The Salvation Army etc. We wanted to give back through the organization. We have a lot of donors and as a result, we are able to assist those in need.


Leaving a legacy


I would like people to see beauty queens as not just superficial women, but also as caring and intelligent and passionate women. There is a big misconception when it comes to beauty queens and I want to change that perception. I want to make an impact, not just in Nigeria but also around the world. I want to be remembered for someone who cares for humanity.

Life after your tenure

I hope to continue with my education. I hope to actively pursue my acting and modeling career. I hope to work for the United Nations as an Ambassador and I also hope to keep being a humanitarian, taking things to new heights.

Relocating to Nigeria

I would love to if the opportunity presents itself. In the mean time, I will travel to Nigeria regularly. Even though I am in Miss Nigeria in America, I am still Miss Nigeria. I am still connected to Nigeria even though I live here. MNIA Inc has different projects and I chose to work on Project Women's Education (Project WE). The program focuses on the advancement (social, financial and sustainability) of the Nigerian woman through education. This project aims to assist women in rural villages and cities with funds to cover education costs. I have spent most of my reign working on this project.

Favorite childhood memory

It is sitting with my grandmother on her porch; she'd have her drink and read bedtime stories to me until I fell asleep.

Beauty regime

I keep my skin very clean.

Story first published in The Nation newspaper http://thenationonlineng.net/web3/sunday-magazine/glamour/7940.html

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Razzmatazz, as Nigeria Image Awards holds in New York


A few weeks ago, many Nigerian music stars, popular comedians,a ctors and actresses stormed New York in the United States of America to be part of the Nigerian Union Corporation and Nigeria Image Awards events, which held amid glamour and razzmatazz, Jennifer Ehidiamen who covered the show writes

WHAT is the big deal? It all started off as a High school reunion in 1996. Two girls based in the US were inspired to organize a reunion for their friends from Queens College, Lagos. They extended invitation to their male counterparts who graduated from Kings College. Few years down the line, the small-group reunion has expanded into a formal gathering of Nigerians in Diaspora.

Now known as the Nigerian Reunion Corporation (since 1999), the organization whose primary purpose is to promote and strengthen the unity and honor of Nigerians and Nigerian descendants in the Diaspora, draws on its broad cultural diversity to facilitate professional and academic development in a relaxed and entertaining environment.

Every year, the organizers, which comprise college students, entrepreneurs and working professionals, bring Nigerians- young and old, from different parts of the United State together in one space to rekindle friendship, unity and interaction among Nigerians; promote cooperation and professional networking and provide assistance to the poor and the needy etc.

It is not an overstatement to say that Nigerians in Diaspora need to be more actively involved in nation building by transferring their skills and knowledge in transforming the country into a competitive nation with growing demand.

This year's event themed “An awakening, a change, a promise for the future- the Golden Year” was held in New York. According to Segun Adeyina, the President of NRC, the theme was chosen based on a number of interesting activities-- its 14th annual Nigerian reunion, 50th year of independence, a competitor in the first World Cup held in Africa, 4th term democracy, a country predicted to be the “Next Eleven” economy, the largest black population in the world with a dynamic Diaspora population etc.

“Sometimes I think we set the bar so high for us to achieve, but low for others to come into our community to take advantage of our rich resources”, said Adeyina in his opening remark at the Town-hall meeting.

“There is still a heavy dependency on foreign expatriates when in today's world, fellow Nigerians have qualifications very similar and in number of cases supersedes those that sell their services to our home country…a recent example is the World Cup where many African countries think the way to success is to import foreign coaches.”

The 3-day event established an opportunity for Nigerians in Diaspora to have a dialogue and take action in making a difference to improve the way the Nigerian image is perceived abroad. “We have to be right with ourselves before we are right with anyone else”, he said.
We gathered in Unity

You could hear the scream of excitement at the lobby. Everyone was excited to see familiar faces of friends and families separated by distance. For some of us, it was the first time of attending the Nigerian Reunion.

This year's event was the 14th annual gathering-- not a gathering in the traditional sense-- but one of coming together to celebrate what it means to be Nigerian, even though home-Nigeria was many miles away. The serene venue on Long Island in New York was a brilliant pick.

It was close enough to the train station and far enough from the hustle and bright lights of New York City.
The first night, there was a town-hall meeting on “Redesigning the image of Nigeria and Leadership 2011”, two panel discussion sessions that had different experts- business professionals, entrepreneurs, celebrity and politicians- giving their opinion about practical steps individuals can take to redesign the image of the country.

They gave account of what they were doing in that capacity, which qualified them to urge the audience to take action too. “We cannot sell Nigeria to the world if we cannot sell it to ourselves”, said Folake Ayoola, the President of Afrimetro. They buttressed the need for Nigerians both home and abroad to stop nagging and start participating. “Nigerians are quick and good at sitting behind to be coaches. It is high time we participate”, said Ramsey Nouah, who was also one of the panelists.
Prayer for Nigeria

Re-affirming how religiously spiritual Nigerians are, both home and abroad, everyone gathered for “spiritual connection” worship service on Sunday morning, which was hosted by Redeemed Christian Church of God, Long Island. Everyone prayed for Nigeria. Popular comedians Jedi, Seyi Brown, Gbenga Owoeye-Wise and the PCE crew thrilled the audience with some entertainment during the service, which was followed by D'comeback movie premier.

There was room to laugh, until tears dropped

The star-studded Nite of 1001 Laughs concert and Nigerian image award, which featured rib-cracking jokes from Lagos-based Basket-Mouth, US-based Gina Yashere, Ayoola Tosin (Jedia) and Seyi Brown, was the highlight of the event. Some of the best of Nigerian artistes both home-based and in Diaspora were also featured.

As part of an effort to recognize and encourage outstanding achievement of Nigerians in different industry, individuals who promoted the Nigerian culture through their creative endeavors were also honored with awards. The Nigerian Image Awards recipients include: Hakim Kae Kazim; Nnena Agba, finalist on America's Next Top Model; Gbenga Akinnagbe; Nollywood actress, Ini Edo; Steven Hendle, producer of Fela on broadway; Sanmi Rotimi; Ovation publisher, Dele Momodu; Rap star, M.I; Popular R & B star, Banky W' performed and closed the event up by ushering the crowd out for “New York Night after concert reception”.
In retrospect

The turn-out for the town-hall meeting, world cup soccer fiesta and picnic was pale, in comparison to the crowd that stormed the “pre-independence day” reception and “Night of 1001 Laughs concert and award”. Being a July 4th weekend which is a public holiday in the US, people were naturally inclined to be more interested in letting their hair down. “This is a fun weekend, a relaxed weekend, and when people are relaxed and open it is easier to get the message across,” said one of the organizers.

(culled from The Nation newspaper, Sunday July 25th edition- http://thenationonlineng.net/web3/sunday-magazine/glamour/6981.html )

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Banky W. is an entertainer and a... Social media enthusiast!

With 11,326 followers on Twitter and about 8,930 Tweets; 37,777 Facebook fans and 4,987 friends; and 215 Blogspot followers, Banky Wellington, one of Nigeria's top entertainers, producer, song writer etc. sure knows how to rock online too. In this interview, Banky talks about the high and lows of being a Social media enthusiast and number one artiste using the platform to set a trend in the Nigerian Entertainment industry...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

When Acting President Goodluck Jonathan Visited Washington D.C.


I saw Acting President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday. And I am still reminiscing about meeting him. Yes, he sat just an arm stretch from where I sat taking photos. It was an exciting opportunity to experience first-hand the Acting President’s visit to D.C. He was well received at the international stage, among his peers and he was able to articulate his vision and plans for Nigeria to all who probed his agenda. Obviously, a lot of focus was on the forth-coming election- 2011. Everyone, well almost everyone, wanted to know what strategies he was putting in place to ensure a free and fair election when the time comes.



During the discussion forum hosted by Nancy Birdsall, President of Center for Global Development, Acting President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan offered his perspective on several of the key issues affecting Nigeria, including electoral reform, consolidation of the gains of the Niger Delta Amnesty, the fight against corruption, and improvement to the power and energy sectors. Birdsall who said the US was interested in helping Nigeria manage her oil said the world wants to see a more active and engaged Nigeria. She expressed how disappointing it has been that Nigeria missed several opportunities to serve on the global stage. “Despite Nigeria’s great wealth, too many Nigerians are still in poverty” she mused. What will it take to move Nigeria from its introverted and stalling progress towards the level it deserves? Africa needs a strong Nigeria, one that is focused on improving lives.



In response, Goodluck Jonathan said that he felt honored to have been invited to attend the Nuclear Security Summit. He noted that Nigeria has indeed enjoyed 11 years of uninterrupted democratic governance. He said that he hopes to strengthen the economic relationship between Nigeria and the United States in line with Private Sector Partnership- supply of crude oil and non-oil business relations and US support in improving power generation and supply. He also said that the Amnesty program is on course in Niger Delta, to help youths stop antagonizing their government through violence.



Acting President pointed out that one of Africa’s challenges is controlling the illicit transfer of weapons from West to Africa. “Why must Africa be a dumping ground for small arms and light weapons?” he asked. When these small arms are dumped in Africa, it gets into wrong hands thus threatening lives and disrupting security. “These are the real weapon of mass destruction” he said.



He was asked about his ambition in the non-oil States, especially on Agriculture. But to my dismay, the question was lost while attempting to elaborate on his plans to ensure an electoral reform before the next election. I wonder if Mr. Acting President step back sometimes to ponder on why the oil sector is becoming overrated. Whatever happened to Agriculture? Whatever happened to efforts by government leaders to make Public Service as sexy as other sectors?



In a later event, during the launch of the Michael S. Ansari Africa Center (Atlantic Council), the first question Goodluck Jonathan was asked was how he plans to engage the next generation during his administration. Acting President said there is room for the next generation who are ready to work hard. One of his strategies is to instill into every youth a value system that will allow us think more about the good of Nigeria instead of individual gain.



Goodluck did not falter in articulating his goals to Senator Chuck Hagel, Chariman of Atlantic Council; Mr. Fredrick Kempe, CEO of Atlantic Council; Dr. Nancy Walker, moderating the discussion and the rest of us, key stakeholders with or without vested interest in Nigeria’s development.



He explained his ambition to build infrastructures; create investment opportunities, put in place a solid base for education, employment and good governance. As for 2011 election, he said that he would ensure electoral justice and accountability.



“Nigeria is rising and our rise will be for the good of all…” he said. And to the US he chided, “As friends we must be honest with each other”. Why pat Nigeria on the back as a partner with one hand and put its name on terrorist watch list with the other?




Meanwhile, hope you understand why I am particularly pumped about all of this? My friend Chinyelu Odunze, a first generation Nigerian-American studying at American University, and I attended the two events. All we had to do was RSVP and there was no backlash on the list of attendance. During the Center for Global Development event, we sat beside the President'sSpeechwriter and listened to Acting President Goodluck Jonathan speak. I also saw the Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomole; The Vice President of the African Region of World Bank, Oby Ezekwesili; and other actors in the Nigerian political and economic sector.




The Acting President’s speechwriter asked us if the speech was good. We nodded in affirmative. Honestly, the speech was really thorough, punctuated with good humor. However, I realize we don't need impeccable Political speech from our government leaders. We need to see our leaders take positive action.


As if reading my mind, our Acting President emphasized the areas where he is hoping to take action. Again, he said that he would use his tenure to improve power generation and supply in Nigeria, sustain the amnesty program on course in Niger Delta and work to control the illicit transfer of small arms and light weapons from the West to Africa.



Yes, we got a good impression of the Acting President’s visit to Washington. To resonate what my friend, Professor John Kline of Georgetown University said in an email response to my enthusiasm, “I hope the elections will provide an opportunity for real leadership toward unity rather than factional division. (Perhaps it needs an inspired youth journalist to help guide it in that direction?)”



There was a rare traffic jam in the Capital city. Notice of parking restrictions for the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit was in effect until 12pm on Wednesday, April 14. Intermittent road closures in some areas of D.C. were expected and everyone was notified in advance. World leaders came to Washington D.C. and this time, Nigeria’s presence was not in oblivion, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan was neither in silence nor in derision. There is hope for Nigeria.

(As reported for the Nation newspaper)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

When in love with home and abroad!


Name: Olanrewaju Blackman Sule
Profession: Chattered accountant
City: Atlanta, GA

His story:
When Olanrewaju left Africa, his plans were simple- get a good education overseas and come back to serve Nigeria as a politician. But Like many young Africans in diaspora, Olanrewaju Sule who migrated to the US in 2002, in search of a qualitative education to boost his high school dream and ambition of becoming a successful Politician someday, changed his plans as he acclimatized into the system abroad. His perception on life was broadened after he got into college. He studied Accounting and Finance, with a major in Business in a two years college- Georgia Perimeter and later transferred to Georgia State University where he obtained a BA in Accounting. He is now working on obtaining his Masters from the same school. When ‘Blackman', as he is fondly called by friends, is not working, he is playing soccer or socializing. He even runs a vibrant entertainment outfit with his friends called “Rock on dude”.

After about eight years of being abroad, Olanrewaju visited his motherland recently. In this interview, he shares his experience of life abroad, visiting in Nigeria again and why he is excited about returning or not returning to Nigeria:

How was life back home before relocating abroad? What was it like getting acclimated?

Back home, I was a little immature, not as buoyant. Life in Nigeria was a beginner’s life then. I was dependent— but here it is different. At first it was very difficult adjusting after I moved here. Many factors contributed to this, including having an accent and knowing everyone around had one too. It was hard to understand people and people didn’t understand me too. I also found the food here strange, and the transport system was very different from the Danfo buses I was used to in Lagos. In fact, the first two months was very frustrating. I missed my friends and trying to make new friends was very difficult. There is still so much racist attitude—everywhere, even in soccer field—people won’t play with you because you are of different color.

What excited you most about relocating
?
The free education—getting paid to go to school was a huge motivation. There is no such opportunity back home. Even if there was in Nigeria, there will be a slide, not everyone will be able to access it. Staying in the US has so far made me the best man I could be.

Tell us about your recent visit to Nigeria. What major changes did you see?
I saw a couple of changes—people have more stuff. When I was there, there were no movie Theaters and Plazas. This means more job opportunities are opening up for people. However, the people don’t look happy. Their facial expression didn’t give me a good vibe. Nigerians are the happiest people on earth but their facial expression didn’t depict that when I visited.
The visit to Nigeria discouraged me from considering coming home soon. Electricity is still bad. I thought things would have improved. In the US, customer service is held at high esteem but in Nigeria, it seems nobody cares. At the airport, I was trying to have my bag checked, the officer directing me pointed to a group of guys and said “go meet that man there” when there were about 5 men...

Do you see yourself in near future doing anything to serve Nigeria?
Considering how the financial sector is blooming in Nigeria, I’m actually doing a research in the investment banking, to see how we can further boost this aspect in Nigeria, even though it is not yet a popular trend.

Does that mean you are hashing out plan to come back home to Nigeria? if yes, Why? if no, why not?
Yes---there is not place like home…eventually…one day be one day--- I will go home set up a business and create job opportunities for graduates. My goal is not just to go back but to go back home and set things up. Living abroad is not the answer to everything--- diaspora is over rated—but there are opportunities here. It is left for the youths to come here and grab those opportunities for good use.

Does that not imply you are in support of brain drain?
It won’t hurt to gain experience here and learn what is making them successful and go back and use it to improve things back home.

In your opinion, what are those things ordinary Nigerians like you and I need to keep in mind in our quest to contribute to Nigeria’s development?
Education: Educate people that don’t want to be educated by telling them about the importance of education to personal and national development.
Set a goal: Know what you want out of life—have a goal in life and set how to achieve it
Community service and volunteer work: learn to give a little of your time to serve your community—giving your time shows you care about your country.
Keep good companion: Hang out with good people. If you hang around with the wrong crowd, it will rub off on you. One of the principles I learnt in High School is that joining multitude to do evil will make you evil. That has always helped me in picking the right friends.
Don’t be greedy: Be sufficient and content with what you have.
It is also important for young Nigerians to listen to what is going on around the world—current affairs—be locally aware and be globally aware too—listen to news, follow Nigerian political system, know how it works—know how the money and infrastructures is taken care of. That basic experience on how Nigerian government is run will motivate you to want to serve and build a better Nigeria.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

THE MEGA CITY PHENOMENON


According to United Nations predictions, for the first time in history, over 60% of the world’s population will be living in cities rather than in rural areas. This social statistics is expected to become real by 2030. Between 2007 and 2050, the global urban population is forecast to increase by 3.1 billion, passing from 3.3 billion to 6.4 billion. While Africa is projected to have its urban population increase by 900 million, Lagos is particularly rated as one of the fastest growing cities in Africa, thus ranking as one of the top twenty-five (25) Mega cities in the world today.

There are many criteria used in defining a mega city. A mega city can be defined as a metropolitan area with a total population that exceeds 10 million people. It also refers to a city chacterised by rapid economic growth coinciding with a high poverty rate, crime and other social problems. A mega city can be a single metropolitan area or two or more metropolitan areas that converge upon one another. Thus, the term Conurbation is used to describe the latter. One of the challenges of mega cities is the difficulty in accurate population estimation.

In 1950, New York was the only urban area with a population of over 10 million worldwide. By 1985 the number of such cities rose to nine, but in 2004, Geographers identified 25 of such areas. The world’s most populous mega city today is Tokyo, which has more than 40 percent of its country’s entire population. According to the 2007 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects, “It is expected that in 2025 Tokyo will still be the world’s most populous urban agglomeration, with 36 million inhabitants.” Meanwhile, the population of Lagos, which has grown from about 300,000 in 1950 to about 14 million in 2007, is estimated by the Nigerian government to expand to 25 million by 2020.

The world’s mega cities face the challenges of urbanization which include illegal settlement caused by massive rural-urban drift that results in residential shanties or slums being built around and within the metropolis. Such characteristic tendency contributes to political, social and economic degradation, which most mega cities face. For example, most urban slums have little or no access to qualitative education, health care and employment opportunities. Thus, the slum dwellers become instigators of social problems that trickle inevitably into the city.

In the case of Lagos, to ameliorate the negative effects of rural-to-urban drift on the growth and development of the state, the Lagos State government has been implementing different programs calculated to perpetuate the maintenance of Lagos State as a mega city. Different recreational parks as well as serene landscapes have been constructed to replace the obtrusive dumps in the city. Modern business districts have replaced the illegal roadside traders’ sheds that also used to double as hide-outs for hoodlums and other social miscreants especially at night. An imaginatively functional transport system called “BRT” has also been introduced to ease the public transport system in Lagos, thus contributing to the growth of economic activities in the state. In the process of implementing these projects, job opportunities were created invariably for the unemployed in the society.

THE TWENTY-FIVE LARGEST MEGA CITIES IN THE WORLD

RANK CITY COUNTRY
1 Tokyo Japan
2 New York United States
3 Seoul South Korea
4 Mumbai India
5 Mexico City Mexico
6 Delhi India
7 Sao Paulo Brazil
8 Los Angeles United States
9 Cairo Egypt
10 Shangai China
11 Osaka Japan
12 Kolkata India
13 Metro Manila Philippines
14 Jakarta Indonesia
15 Karachi Pakistan
16 Guangzhou China
17 Buenos Aires Argentina
18 Moscow Russia
19 Tehran Iran
20 Beijing China
21 Dhaka Bangladesh
22 Rio de Janeiro Brazil
23 London United Kingdom
24 Istanbul Turkey
25 Lagos Nigeria
List Source: Th. Brinkhoff: The Principal Agglomerations of the World

THE NEW AIR-CONDITIONED DAEWOO BUSES IN LAGOS!


A few years ago, the public transportation system in Lagos was a far cry from what it is now. Not only was it rugged, mortifying and unfashionable with so many commuters hustling to jump into moving buses, no one could tell how much was lost in the process. Street urchins popularly called “Agbero” were another menace to the system as they harassed commuters, picked pockets and engaged in all sorts of mischievous activities to the detriment of a functional transport system in the State. However, with the introduction of a government-driven public transport system, the transport sector in Lagos has since been upgraded from its dissipation and deteriorating status into a standard befitting one of the world’s Mega cities.

As part of its resolute effort to turn Lagos into a Mega City and improve business activities in the state, the Government launched the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in March 2007. The project was actually initiated by the Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration, with assistance from the World Bank. It has since seen the light of day, thanks to current Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola’s successful implementation strategy.

Since the launch of the BRT system, Lagos has joined other modern Mega cities that are overcoming the hectic transportation problem caused by urbanization and overpopulation. In the past, to meet the transportation needs of Lagosians, similar systems, such as the Lagos Municipal Transport Service (LMTS), Lagos State Transport Corporation (LSTC), the Jubilee line and other transport outfits, were set up but gradually faded out due to poor maintenance and related negligence.

The BRT system, which is being regulated by the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) to ensure effective operations, is classified into the Red and Blue buses, which ply designated routes within the metropolis. While the Red Buses, popularly called “LAGBUS”, under the operation of the LAGBUS Asset Management Limited run non-stop from Mile 12 to CMS, the Blue Buses, operated by the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), run the same route but with stops at every BRT designated Bus-stop where the BRT shelter is built with tickets on sale for commuters.

As the name implies, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) seeks to give passengers a smooth ride at an affordable fare and to encourage more Lagosians to imbibe the culture of public transportation, thus reducing traffic congestion that result when everybody puts their cars on the road daily. Although, the latter has significantly been achieved, the hope of enjoying a cheap transport was thwarted when Lagos commuters woke up to the announcement of the increase in the BRT bus fare with the introduction new BRT LAGBUS.

These new LAGBUS are Daewoo buses that have facilities such as radio, Air conditioning etc. which do not exist in the Marcopolo LAGBUSES. The introduction of the new buses increased the routes covered to include Oshodi, Festac, Dopemu, Ketu, Ojubode etc. plied by BRT LAGBUS. The ticket price increased as well. For example, a ride from Ojodu Berger to TBS that used to cost N120 on the old Marcopolo buses was increased to N150 while the new Daewoo LAGBUS cost N200.

Speaking with Lagos Friday Telegraph on this new improvement, one of the operational Staff who claimed anonymity said “Daewoo Executive buses started operation on February 23rd 2009 with the intention of providing a better improved service. It has AC and radio for commuter’s enjoyment. The increase in fee was not effected without notice. In fact, passengers had the opportunity of traveling on the air-conditioned buses at a minimal fee on the first week of operation so that they will know the worth of the Bus. There was a banner displayed to notify the commuters on the price variations. Not all of them agreed to the change. We must however not forget that the BRT was introduced to make transport easier for Lagosians, not necessarily cheaper. ”

While a few commuters interviewed showed keen preference for the new air-conditioned buses to the Marcopolo buses, some showed repulse, while others were basically non-challant in outlook. Mr. Akintunde, a communicator who works on the Island said “I prefer the Air-conditioned buses because they are more comfortable.” Similarly, another commuter, Mr. Famudimu Gabriel simply described it as super-convenient. “But I am not taking it today because I have cold and the air-conditioned bus might not make me feel better” he said. Although, Joy who works in SAPN, an oil company in Lagos Island and travels on BRT actually exclaimed that the Daewoo bus was too expensive, she admitted preferring it to the other bus because of its comfort. Meanwhile, Abimbola Folashade simply said “it makes no difference.” Mr. Obasi who also shares Folashade’s view said that he travels on the Marcapolo bus because to him the two buses are just the same. However, Mr. Samuel Adegola who was traveling through the Ojodu-Berger BRT terminal for the first time enthusiastically opted for the new air-conditioned bus, “It is worth the price. I think it is going to be more comfortable. It will create room for relaxation before commuters embark on the stress of the day” he said.

BRT LAGBUS: AIR-CONDITIONED DAEWOO VS. MARCOPOLO BUSES

ROUTE PRICE (N)
DAEWOO MARCOPOLO
Berger-TBS 200 150
Tollgate-TBS 150 120
Alapere-TBS 120 100
Oworo-Obalende-TBS/CMS 100 80
Berger-Oshodi 100
Alapere-Oshodi 100 70
Ojubode-Leventis/Obalende/CMS 200
Benson-Ketu 100
Agric-Ketu 100
Oshodi-CMS/Obalende 150 100
Mile 2- CMS (Broad St.) 120
Iyana Ipaja- Oshodi 70
Iyana Ipaja- CMS (Broad St.) 220 180
Dopemu-CMS (Broad St.) 200 160
Pleasure-Oshodi 70
U-turn- Oshodi 100
Mile 12-CMS (Outer Marina) 150 120
Festac- CMS 200
Festac- Oshodi 100
Festac- Mile 2 50

THE BEACH AT YOUR DOOR-STEP

THE BEACH AT YOUR DOOR-STEP
BY JENNIFER EHIDIAMEN

Lagos is rightly referred to as the city that never sleeps by many. Characterized by over population, noise, business hub, cultural diversity etc. the city is most celebrated for its liveliness and hot spots which distinct it from other cities in Nigeria. Among the many features that can only be found in this fast-becoming-a-Mega city, the Beach remains the most outstanding.

Bar Beach (so long forgotten), Kuramo Beach, Lekki Beach, Alpha Beach, Eleko Beach, Akodo Beach, Badagry Beach, Agaja Beach, Ilashe Beach, Whispering Palms, Lighthouse Beach, Atlas Cove, Ogogoro Island and Tarkwa Bay are some of the private and public Beaches in Lagos.

These Beaches serve as a good spot where Lagosians and Tourists let their hair down and feel the earth under their feet. They turnout in tens on weekdays and in hundreds on weekends, but during festive holidays or other public holidays the place is besieged by both rich and poor itching for an opportunity to bask in the glory of nature. Everywhere you turn, you will see lovers strolling on the white sand, families sitting under the Palm trees with their picnic basket, youths swimming in the wave of the calm ocean or religious groups/spiritualists offering sacrifice/sun worshipping (in some of the public Beach).

Despite the similarity in the features of these coasts, they are all uniquely located in different parts of Lagos and each appeal to a varied audience. For example, the Kuramo (named after a small lake which lies behind it), Eleko Beach and Tarkwa Bay are often patronized by the masses while Ilashe and Whispering Palms (a holiday resort near Badagry) are exclusive Beach resort accessible only to those who can afford it.

Tarkwa Bay, a sheltered Beach located at the entrance of Lagos Port is one of the best public beaches in Lagos. It is easily accessible by boat from Tarzan Jetty at Maroko or through Falomo Bridge on Victoria Island. Tarkwa Bay is loved by many because of its calmness which makes it possible for children to swim. Also, the white sand is not as coarse as of other Beaches, thus people find it more comfortable to walk or lie on.

Like Tarkwa Bay, Lekki Beach is a popular Beach on the Island. It is accessible through the Lekki-Epe Expressway, around Ilasan Housing Estate. The Beach has small huts/shelter made of palm fronds which are available for hire to tourists and other visitors.

Meanwhile, another serene Beach for Lagosians who love to live big in an exclusive environment is the Halem Sea Side Resort on Kuramo Beach or Ikaare Island or Satellite Town. Like Ilashe and Agaja Beach, this exclusive Beach resort is open to people looking for a place to take-off for a short vacation while maintaining a sense of community feel.

Father away from the Island and the buzzing of the metropolis is the Badagry Beach. People who visit the Badagry Heritage Museum or Slave Port often maximize their trip by heading down to this famous Beach. The horse ride, fresh-looking coconut begging to be eaten, clean and calm atmosphere makes it an attractive place to unwind.

In terms of proximity, Bar Beach and Kuramo Beach are located at the heart of business in Victoria Island. However, Lekki Beach, Eleko Beach and Akodo Beach are located around the Lekki Environ. Still on the Island, Tarkwa Bay, Halem Sea side resort, Lighthouse Beach, Ogogoro Island and Atlas Cove are closely knitted around the Port entrance. The whispering Palms Beach and Holiday resort, Badagry Beach and Suntan Beach are all located in Badagry. No matter where you reside in Lagos, one of these Beaches are near you, if not at your door step, so imbibe the holiday culture and take a trip to the sun!

Tosyn or not Tosyn?


For some people, living with sickle cell is something to be timid about, to whisper about behind closed doors. It takes boldness to talk about it, but Tosyn is not just talking about it, she is also spearheading an organization called THESE GENES that is primarily set up to address what ordinarily the society would want to ignore. These Genes aims to create awareness about sickle cell towards building a better-informed society. Tosyn Bucknor is a young lady who has chosen to stand up and be counted, thus making a difference in her life and the lives of others. Here young Tosyn talks about her passion, writing, music and of course these genes!

Who is Tosyn Bucknor?

I have to be honest, every time I’m to introduce myself to people always depends on where I am and what is happening there. But I will say in a nutshell that I am a writer who is into media and entertainment…who is a singer-song writer. I’m very interested in not-for-profit. I run two but three projects. The first one is the sickle cell one; the second one is Share, which is a social network for young adults. Lately I have become interested in orphanages, especially one in Kogi State- Mama Ekundayo orphanage. I studied Law. I grew up in a family of four- my dad, my mum, my sister and I, and I am a daddy’s girl.

You said you studied Law but do you practise?

The good thing is I may not be practicing in the sense that I don’t go to court but I find that law is something that affects everything you do… the thing that law does for you is that it opens your mind to certain things, it helps you ask questions and it helps you to always know how to protect yourself and the things you do. Thus, I can do legal consultancy in the entertainment field.

What has been a major influence in your life that shaped your ambition?

I have a lot of things that influenced me. First of all, I was very influenced by the way I grew up. Now I realized that I grew up in a very bohemian lifestyle in the sense that my dad is a musician so all the things I love now can be traced back to the way I grew up. I have also been influenced by the fact that I live with sickle cell. I find that it helped shaped some of the opinions and views that I held while growing up. And, of course, coupled with a Leap Africa sponsored conference I attended in Ghana, when we were asked about what we are passionate about and we were told to start a change project in our environment, it opened my mind to the things that I knew, that you don’t have to wait to be a president to do something, you can affect the people around you. That conference was also a very important influence. Being passionate about what people are passionate about also influences me. Take, for instance, the Mama Ekundayo thing when I saw it in TY Bello’s documentary, I wanted to support that passion.


Tell us about this Mama Ekundayo

Basically, officially she is like ninety something, she is in Kogi State, she runs an orphanage…in the documentary by TY Bello, she was like how can she eat when her own children have not eaten? This is actually a woman who doesn’t work or have a stable source of income and she is running an orphanage home. Mama Ekundayo is very inspirational in the sense that she shows that you don’t actually have to have everything to help…

And you want to support this vision?

Yes. God-willing I want to go there in November, some people already volunteered to support. But I will also want to return next year and return with a lot more people. The idea is to go there and see for myself their areas of need and then go back with help.

What qualities will you say you possess that puts you at advantage over others?

Actually, I’m just an average person who refuses to be average. I am very passionate about showing that. In our society we seem to be very impressed with superlatives- you are the tallest; you are the best…but what about the people that are average? I’m very stubborn about being an average girl but not being treated averagely.

Was that what inspired you to start up THESE GENES?

When I was growing up, I would say the information I had about sickle cell was very scientific. Nobody was talking about how you feel, people weren’t talking; it was as if people were shy. When I was growing up and I tell someone I’m a sickler, they would say don’t tell people. Why? I’m Yoruba, I’m short, I don’t hide that. Why should I hide the fact that I live with sickle cell? What inspired me to start up THESE GENES was to be able to talk to teenagers because I think that is the age you are a bit confused about it… I was so fixated on the fact that they said I was going to die when I was eighteen, that I wasn’t living my life. Until I realized that it really isn’t how long you live but what you do with the hours you have…a lot of people who live with sickle cell are stigmatized…they are thought to be abikus, or seen as spiritual attack…

What has been some of the things you have achieved by talking about it?

In fact I was very surprised with the impact these genes has had so far. Even educated people are inspired to go learn more. We have a lot of people coming to ask us how they can help their friends who live with sickle cell not to be defeatist about life. We get emails from all over Nigeria, from people who just want to express themselves. We then also have people who just want to talk about it…sickle cell is something to talk about because the truth is practically everyone in Nigeria is affected one way or the other. If you are not, you might know a cousin or friend that is.


How about your other passions- the writer in you, have you published a book yet?

No I haven’t published a book; I have a lot of written books. As a writer, for a long time I just used to write, I never used to show people what I write. But lately, I have become more confident and actually want to publish. Not because I think it validates me as a writer but because I have a lot of books written and I just feel I should publish one or two. I wrote a book when I was growing up on my journey living with sickle cell, now it is being edited and proof read. Hopefully I should be able to publish it.

And your music?

Oh music. Music. Music. Music is very interesting. My stage name is Contradiction… I find music to be very scary. I don’t know if it is because my Dad is a musician so there is always the question of am I trying to be like him? Will I even match up? What will people think? Should I do music? Should I stick to writing? Music has a lot of questions for me but it is because it has a lot of questions that I know I have to do it. It is like I have to face my biggest fear, so I don’t want to look back on my life and see this whole music thing I didn’t explore.


Why the name Contradiction?

I wanted a name that will capture who I am. I’m like an old woman one day and then I’m a young girl. Sometimes, I’m a tomboy; usually, I like wearing jeans, T-shirts. There are days I wear short dresses and high heels. I’m a very nice person but can be very mean, especially if I want to get things done. I wanted people to understand who I was, it even reflects in the music… it is my different persona playing out.

And you are also an event planner?

No! That is my sister. My sister is an event planner. But I know why people tend to think I’m an event planner; it is because I do events. Like on THESE GENES, I wanted to do a fashion show, we called it Jeans for genes and we basically got five designers to work with denim materials to create outfit. We exhibited them, people bought the outfits and the proceeds went to These Genes.

Who is your role model?

I would say it is combination of three people- my dad, my mum and my sister. My dad because I’m naturally like him, all the things that come with being an artiste…he taught me how to sacrifice for the family, he is a wonderful guy and that is why I’m a daddy’s girl. My mum on the other hand is more practical, more businesslike, very into family. When she wants to do something she does it. My sister completes it. She thinks and she does. My sister is so giving of herself. She is focused, which is why she finds success in what she does. I find her very inspirational.


Are there factors around in your life that make life oppressive?

No. People always say I’m a very happy person. All the things that make life oppressive for me come from within. I’m a melancholic person, so I’m prone to rounds of depression so I have learned to just put one foot in front of the other…Depression is something else I speak about because in Africa, especially in Nigeria, we don’t talk about things and we sweep everything under the carpet. People don’t believe people can get depressed, they say you are sad and if you say you are depressed they say, “Oh I reject it for you in Jesus name…it won’t be your portion.” We can’t just close our eyes to the fact that people can be emotional…and feel suicidal. I’m a very sensitive person, very self-analytical…

What is your dream job?

I’m very pretty contented person. I’m enjoying everything I do now…when I was growing up and people ask me what do I want to be when I grow up, I used to say a star or I would say famous. I really want to get on top of the game in media and entertainment. Maybe I do have a dream job…My dream job is any job that allows me get people that also have their own dream realize it. In the sense that I don’t like the fact that in Nigeria now someone has an idea, for instance, for a television show and he has to sweat so much to get a sponsor.

What do you think are some of the factors that contribute to this?

I do think corporate Nigeria is too hard on creative Nigeria. It shouldn’t be so difficult for us to get our dreams out…people who have access to finance shouldn’t make things so difficult for creativity, and I don’t mean just art and entertainment. I believe there is a doctor somewhere, who wants to work on a cure for something, don’t make it so difficult. If you look at developing and developed countries, people are more willing to take chances, if you support ten ideas and two come to life, it is a good thing…but everybody wants the best but no body knows what this supposedly best is…we see this in our music, everybody wants to do popular music but we can do music that carters for people that just want to see you perform live every evening and it should be okay for you to do. I feel the opportunities arte there but corporate Nigeria say we don’t speak like them, creative Nigeria say “well we don’t understand who you speak”. Well, maybe we need someone who understands what we are saying and translate it to them and understand what they are saying and translate it to us so that we can get things done.

On your blog, you stated that you like living in Lagos, why do you like it in Lagos?

I love Lagos because I’m a Lagosian. I really wish Lagos were safer… Lagos is like the social capital of Nigeria and so it will be of Africa and the world. I like Lagos. I think Lagos has a good vibe because Lagos has a lot of different kinds of people. Wherever you live, there is always something happening.


What advice do you have for young people out there who have a lot of aspirations but think they are at a disadvantage?

I would say turn your disadvantages to advantages. The people that said when life gives you lemon, make lemonade, they knew what they were saying. They are not silly people; it is because they know it can be done. We don’t have access to a lot of things youths in developed countries have. So, are you going to whine or get some things done? That is what I will always say, do something…be something and don’t wait until it is given to you…don’t have a sense of entitlement. Whatever you do, be yourself within the boundaries of law…and be comfortable in your own shoes.

To learn more about Tosyn Bucknor’s work, visit www.thesegenes.org